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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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Harrop: Conservative liberals needed

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The more people you pack in limited space, the more those people have to follow the rules. Law, order and good manners are essential to the healthy functioning of our towns and cities.

Democrat-run cities often have an unfair reputation as hotbeds of left-wing activists intent on letting miscreants run wild. That’s because lefty activists have bigger megaphones through which they often shout ludicrous proposals, like cutting police forces in the middle of a crime wave.

In reality, these cities usually have two political factions — progressive Democrats and moderate Democrats. As the disruptions caused by COVID shutdowns unleashed disorder, electorates in these cities started moving toward the moderates. That’s happening from San Francisco to Chicago to New York.

Their voters are jettisoning many of the fringe politicians. San Franciscans famously recalled their uber-progressive district attorney, Chesa Boudin. Who can forget former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who created the outrageous no-go zones for police during the 2020 protests?

Durkan was replaced by Bruce Harrell, whom Fox News called a “pro-police candidate.” And New York’s mayor is former police captain Eric Adams, a law-and-order guy along the lines of Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani in his sane days.

In Portland, left-wing excess let homeless encampments spread and trash pile up. The city is suffering economically and psychologically from the departure of the REI sporting goods store. REI cited thefts and break-ins in its decision to leave. Moderates are fighting back.

Before going on, let’s recognize that though most big cities are Democrat-run, those with Republicans in charge have problems as bad or worse. For all the handwringing over the crime surge in San Francisco, violent crime is worse in Miami, whose mayor, Francis Suarez, is a Republican candidate for president.

Nor are these cities as monolithically Democratic as many think. Giuliani and Bloomberg were elected mayor as Republicans. And San Francisco has the highest percentage of independent voters of any county in California.

In New York City’s outer boroughs, local officeholders are being challenged by candidates to their right who happen to be other Democrats. Public safety is a major issue.

One of the most interesting races involves Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. Two years ago, Katz barely won the Democratic primary against lefty Tiffany Caban, who was endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Now Katz is being primaried by a Democrat who is accusing her (unfairly) of being soft on crime.

Ocasio-Cortez has not been endorsing candidates for city council of late, and, as it’s becoming clear, they don’t want her endorsement. As Jeff Leb, who runs super PACs that champion moderates, put it, “A lot of the luster of AOC’s endorsement has really gone out the window. The more she endorses candidates, and loses, it devalues her.”

The pandemic hurt cities in several ways, but those downward trends have begun to reverse. Tourist dollars disappeared for a while, but the visitors are returning even to troubled San Francisco. In New York, they’re back big time.

Downtown office towers may not soon enjoy their previous high occupancy rates, but more employers are calling their workers back to the office. Transforming some of these office spaces into residences could lower some high rents as well as repopulate business districts.

In the big cities, rare is the successful politician who rails against gay marriage. And anyone who portrayed drag queens as a threat to America would get laughed off the podium. There’s also no bashing of immigrants, who, in fact, make up a large part of the electorate.

Call them conservative liberals, if you want. They are really moderates. The cities need their pragmatism to keep the gears turning.

Actually, the country does as well.

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