Republican Market Opportunity: The Cities

The best way to revive a sagging company is to look for new market opportunities and seize them. Which is why the Republican party needs to take on the cities.   We’ve all enjoyed daydreaming about John Yoo, Mayor of Oakland — I wish he’d get the hint and really run for the office — but the larger point is: cities are where the people are; cities are where our people (Asian and Hispanic business types) are; cities are where liberalism has not only failed, but failed specularly and with tragic human cost.  

What would revitalize Detroit?  Only one thing: conservative philosophy.

And the market is there.  For one thing, in the cage-match-to-the-death between public sector unions and Democratic mayors, someone is going to go down.  From Reason:

The [Chicago teacher's] strike’s lasting damage was to the party that since at least the early 20th century has been labor’s best friend. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not just some schmuck in the donkey party: He is President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, the congressional leader behind the Democrats’ 2006 House takeover, a Clinton administration arm twister so feared that he is still known by his ’90s nickname, Rahmbo. 

But the strike made Chicago’s tough-guy mayor look like Chuck “Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner. Striking teachers dubbed him “Empermanuel,” accused him of having “no respect for us as people,” and even claimed (falsely, it turned out) that Emanuel was a fan of the Canadian alt-rock quartet Nickelback. When the teachers returned to work after more than a week on the picket line, they had scored a big pay increase and crippled the teacher-evaluation testing at the heart of the strike, a resolution Emanuel unconvincingly called an “honest compromise.”

And it’s happening in Los Angeles, too, under the hapless public union court eunuch Antonio Villaraigosa:

After years of dire and deteriorating finances (L.A.’s budget hasn’t been balanced for four years), the mayor allows government employee unions to carry out their tactic of ensuring that any slowdown in the rate of spending increases is immediately visible to Angelenos in the form of cuts to services. Villaraigosa, whose city manager calls for taxes on real estate sales, entertainment, petroleum extraction, and parking lot revenues, seems to believe voters will respond to office-hour reductions and crossing guard–free intersections by demanding tax hikes. 

Never interrupt an enemy in the process of destroying itself:

Rather than offering concessions to Emanuel, Villaraigosa, and other cash-strapped executives, unions have decided to go down swinging. They may be right to see compromise as death. But make no mistake: Laborgeddon is upon us, and it will have long-term consequences for the Democrats.

As Godzilla and Mothra attack each other, there’s going to be a lot of extra energy out there for a second look at conservative policies.

We should be ready to fight.  We’ve given up the cities for too long.

  1. Matthew K. Tabor

    “The best way to revive a sagging company is to look for new market opportunities and seize them.”

    No, Mr. Long, not necessarily. It depends on your company — try to seize all the new markets and opportunities you want, and if your management/personnel is ineffective, your product has a problematic reputation in the marketplace, and there are 20 other serious, foundational issues, you’ll see a tiny sales/revenue bump and no long-term improvement.

    The opening line makes for a cute argument — onward, Republican soldiers, to the gates of every city in America! — but throwing the same poorly-crafted product, marketed badly to a population that sees the brand as damaged, isn’t what causes a revival. Getting your own house in order and running efficiently, defining a direction clearly, creating a mechanism and stream to communicate all of that effectively — that all comes first.

    Ready to fight? Given up on cities for too long? Completely agree with both — but we need to re-organize, re-structure and train first. Then we just might win.

  2. Give Me Liberty

    When I think about Republican attempts to woo cities I am immediately reminded of Jack Kemp and enterprise zones.  Why did they not work?

  3. Steve C.

    In one respect enterprise zones are like communism, they’ve never really been tried. Practically, it’s a promise of economic development (jobs, growth, etc) premised on what we know works, but what works has an awful long lead time. They were also intended to be part of a larger package. Sadly, not very many chose to champion those reforms and much of the interest faded when Clinton was elected.

  4. Steven M.

    It’s not a perfect analog, but I do think it would be beneficial to look at what evangelical Christianity has done to reach out to cities within the past 10 years or so.

    Some of the tactics are quite different. Much of the focus is on serving the poor and needy within the city. (Not that it would be a bad idea for republican and conservative groups to be serving the poor, and to be seen serving the poor through private charity)

    However we could learn something from the over-all shift in attitude and approaches towards cities. 

    Tim Keller’s numerous writings on city outreach are quite informative and often universally applicable.

  5. KC Mulville

    It’s predictable, though, isn’t it? Like the story of two friends being chased by a bear, and one puts on sneakers. The other laughs and says, “you can’t outrun a bear.” To which the fist replies, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.”

    I think the unions have calculated that we’re all going to be economically rescued or (more likely) we’re all going down anyway. In either case, it’s better to maximize your take, and not surrender an inch, because cooperation and sharing won’t win or lose the game. 

    So long as the liberal, Democrat model continues to ignore the power and necessity of growth, their governance will always be overwhelmed by too few resources and ever-expanding services. 

    The economic secret of conservatism is growth, and it’s the one thing the Democrats can’t bring themselves to offer, because government can’t offer growth. The private sector can. So long as the Democrat Party is chained to government and not the private sector, they can’t afford to admit that the solution lies outside of government.

  6. Steven M.

    “You find the things that the culture believes that you believe too, and you build on that. You say, “Well if you believe that, and we agree with that, why don’t you believe this?” … When you argue like that, the people, even if they disagree and don’t like it, feel the power of that argument. Then you know, when you can see a look in their eyes, that you have contextualized. You’re still challenging them and telling them something they don’t want to hear, but they feel the force of the argument. To me, that is the key to really reaching somebody in a culture. It’s not the trappings. It’s not facial hair and music and being in a warehouse. That’s just incredibly superficial. You have to know where the people live and their aspirations and their hopes and beliefs so well that when you talk to them, they sense that you understand them and that you have put your finger on things that they know is something of a problem in their own lives.”

    Tim Keller (http://www.outreachmagazine.com/people/4932-tim-keller-a-vision-to-reach-the-city.html)

  7. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    Interesting, and perhaps hopeful, that this article should appear on the same day as yours: States, Cities Demand Say on Fiscal Cliff

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/states-cities-fiscal-cliff/2012/11/24/id/465225

  8. Rob Long
    C
    Steven M.: It’s not a perfect analog, but I do think it would be beneficial to look at what evangelical Christianity has done to reach out to cities within the past 10 years or so.

    Some of the tactics are quite different. Much of the focus is on serving the poor and needy within the city. (Not that it would be a bad idea for republican and conservative groups to be serving the poor, and to be seen serving the poor through private charity)

    However we could learn something from the over-all shift in attitude and approaches towards cities. 

    Tim Keller’s numerous writings on city outreach are quite informative and often universally applicable. · 20 minutes ago

    Edited 19 minutes ago

    I think this is exactly the kind of thing Republicans should be looking at and modeling themselves on.  Look, it’s uphill for us — we’re going to have to win hearts and minds.  Who does that best?  Who is the market leader in hearts and minds?  

  9. Edward Dentzel

    Rob, pleasure meeting you on the NR Cruise.

    I agree the conditions are getting riper and riper for some kind of conservative intervention in cities. The main problem we’ll run into is convincing these people the current way of doing business can’t go on forever. Right now, their faith that everything we’ll “work out” borders on religious fanaticism.

    That’s why the message we bring will have to be simple and honest. We start talking about enterprise zones and they’ll tune us out in seconds. We’ll have to keep it to Conservatism 101 and not some higher level course.

    The main point needing to be delivered: lower tax rates and regulation on everyone and the normal functioning of a city can coexist. In addition, we must show them in a step-by-step manner where their current ideas will eventually lead: bankruptcy.

    Furthermore, we may ask voters for some mercy. Something like, “give us 5 years. If you don’t like it, if we don’t come through, you can go back to your way.” Because if it descends into some regular conservative/liberal battle, we’ll lose because we’ll be on their turf.           

  10. Matthew K. Tabor

    Hate admitting it, but the environmentalist movement — in 2012, there’s not a close second. They’ve sold a mindset that convinces each person that they’re engaging on the right side of a moral battle and that doing so makes them a good person.

    They’ve taken a scientific issue and made it into a moral issue with outrageous success — you’re a good person if you recycle everything or oppose fracking, you’re a bad, selfish, uncaring person if you don’t. They have a clear message delivered in a way that taps both heart and mind while playing on our desires to live well and embody goodness (not just in our own minds, but ‘good’ as we appear to others).

    It’s the new church/religion of 2012 for a reason.

    Rob Long

    Who does that best?  Who is the market leader in hearts and minds?   · 5 minutes ago

  11. Nathaniel Wright

    In other words, “We need more Ron Swanson’s and fewer Rahm Emanuel’s!”  Sing it, oh sing it!

  12. Steven Drexler

    I’ll say “amen” to BlueAnt and Layla: the geography of political thought seems to be an almost unbending natural law. At all times (last 100 years) and everywhere (the developed world, anyway), the city culture engenders a collectivist, government-centered mindset. And the rural/suburban environment lends itself to self-sufficiency and conservative thought.

    Sorry, Rob. I think this is a brick wall to either smash the conservative movement against, or to go around and avoid completely.

  13. Frederick Key

    Yes, I’m still sulking (a step up from pouting, I’ll have you know) but it just seems impossible. We have a comatose citizenry who just wants problems to go away, and will pull the switch for whoever makes them feel that way. The unfair and invincible ire that minorities direct toward Republicans is fed every single stinking day by the opposition, and these people, voting in blocs, control every city in America. Social issues that ought to have nothing to do with politicians are invariably shoved to center stage by Democrats who have nothing else–and they win on them.

    I just don’t see it. It’s going to have to get much, much worse before it gets better, and by then it may really be too late.

  14. Paul L.

    The overwhelming  majority of the people living in cities are quite happy to have the Democrats and the public sector unions run things and give them free stuff. They are not looking for alternatives and any problems in their cities they will instinctively blame on Republicans, capitalism, the “rich” or anyone else except for themselves and the politicians they elect.

    The residents of Washington, DC keep electing and re-electing Marrion Barry (!) even though he turned that city into a hell hole of crime, corruption and squalor. There is no reason to believe urbanites in other cities are any different than the residents of DC.

  15. AIG

    Now now lets not romanticize ”rural thought” so much. 

    There are obviously multiple reasons why the geography of cities lends to certain political outcomes. One is the concentration of poor people, of course.

    The second one, however, is the concentration of wealthy people.  Wealthy people typically become wealthy not by having a wider range of knowledge than the rest of us, but precisely by having a narrower range, but more specialized, than us. They are rationally ignorant of the politics and things unrelated to their field, and are rationally anti-competitive; i.e. if they can use government more effectively at keeping others from climbing the ladder, and therefore prefer bigger government (since they control it). 

    Cities are by definition centralized. As BlueAnt points out, the solution is the de-centralization of cities. But not because rural-ism is good, or urban-ism is bad. Only because centralization has diminishing returns. 

    That may be the only viable long-term solution for Republicans or conservatives. And it is a natural process; most cities have become far less centralized today than they were 30 or 40 years ago, and will continue to be so. So that’s the good news. 

  16. Southern Pessimist

    If conservatives are ever going to be a dominant force in government policy, they have to formulate an argument that has relevance in the places that are being destroyed by liberal governance. Unfortunately conservatives seem to be slow in thinking in this way. Rahm Emmanuel is a quasi-socialist liberal politician who is staking his political survival on being in opposition to the teachers unions. We are late to this game.

  17. Lucy Pevensie

    Rob, I heard Bill Whittle give a speech in which he recited a couple of phrases from a TV sitcom jingles and let everyone in the room finish the lines–and of course everyone can. Imagine someone saying, “Where everybody knows your name, . . . ” We can all finish the sentence.

    It was meant to show the enormous propaganda power of pop culture.  The Left has clearly used that propaganda power intentionally, while our side has been too high-minded and purist to try to do anything other than convince by straightforward intellectual arguments.  We lose the culture wars not only because our forces are unequal, but because our side is following Marquess of Queensberry rules and their side is in an all-out street fight. 

    You want to win over the cities, well pop culture is very influential in the cities.  TV is a big part of that pop culture. I think it’s time to start harnessing the power of pop culture and entertainment to influence people. And you are probably the single person who is best situated to start to make it happen.

  18. Lucy Pevensie
    Joan Greathouse: I also would like to propose the model of the providence house. It is our favorite local charity located in the inner city. They laser focus on breaking the cycle of homelessness by helping families gain the resources necessary to move permanently to independent living. It is an amazing set up. Honestly, whenever I visit and make our donation, even I feel like living there. It is a place of true support and friendship. It is heartwarming to read the success stories of those eventually broke free from their poverty cycle. If the republican party is really about goodwill and compassion, let’s show it. 

    I also agree that it’s time for conservative millionaires to start founding charities with explicitly conservative associations.  Let people know that Republicans care about them by offering them good things and telling them that Republicans are behind the offer.  My first choice for a place to start is free independent schools. 

  19. goodburker
    1. Find a Conservative financier (Koch, Adelson – I think Romney might be avail- you pick)

    2. write/direct a documentary (a la “Waiting for Superman”) regarding the plight of the poor and middle class in the urban areas (Detroit, Los Angeles, New York) under Democratic leadership.  Focus on cronyism (especially among public sector unions), scandal, action vs. rhetoric.  Beat the drum of failing schools in these urban areas.
    3. Distribute DVD’s of the documentary to every household in these urban areas.
    4. Rent large theaters in these cities and hold town-halls.  Invite teacher union reps, dem officials, anyone who would like to debate.
    5. Film these debates.
    6. Distribute DVD’s of these debates to every household in these urban areas.
    7. In the meantime groom strong candidates who will bang the gong of “REFORM!”

    BTW, to prove to you the power of movie-making: ”Waiting for Superman” did more to convert my left-leaning wife to our side than all of the rational, logical arguments I have made over the past twenty years.  It changed the narrative that she had been led to believe for 45 years in two hours.  Effective and efficient.

  20. Daniel Jeyn
    “Waiting for Superman” did more to convert my left-leaning wife to our side than all of the rational, logical arguments I have made over the past twenty years.  It changed the narrative that she had been led to believe for 45 years in two hours.  Effective and efficient. · 13 minutes ago

    Well put.  I lived in Chicago and witnessed the attempt to win one — ONE — city council seat by a Republican.  The Democratic Union Orcs were out in droves to paper the neighborhood with their talking points, holding rallies, etc.  In the end, even in apparently the most Republican area of the city, we weren’t able to win one.

    From that bleak vantage point I have to make the judgement that the way to win is to push on items WHERE we win.  School reform is the obvious bigger issue.  If I could imagine how Romney could possibly have made more inroads and converts (this is pure speculation) he probably ought to have brought up education and school choice far more often.