Culture Wars/Current Controversies

What Progressives Did to Cities

A polemical shot from the “Flight 93” guy over the growing battle between the urban lumpenproletariant and urban bourgeoisie. What nearly all commentators on these issues, whether conservatives like Anton, centrist-liberals like Schellenberger, or far-left “defund the police” types never seem to understand is that this is what you get in Third World countries where they are huge divisions between rich and poor and a massive urban underclass.

By Michael Anton, First Things

San Fransicko:
Why Progressives Ruin Cities
by michael shellenberger
harper, 416 pages, $28.99

I’ve spent my entire life in or in near-orbit of what I think it’s safe to call America’s four most important cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. Whether by coincidence or providence, my time in and around these metropolises overlapped with their worst of times, their best, and now—it appears—back to their worst.

I was born just after the beginning of what left-wing San Franciscophile David Talbot has described as that city’s “Season of the Witch”: the decade-and-a-half of insanity that began (more or less) with the Summer of Love and carried through the early days of the AIDS epidemic. In between saw the Zodiac murders, the Zebra murders, the Moscone-Milk murders, Jonestown, the Hearst kidnapping, innumerable other acts of New Left violence, plus several attempts at revolution, some serious, most LARPy, but all disruptive—and meant to be—of ordinary civic life.

I also happen to have made my first trip to New York in 1977, that city’s widely-acknowledged nadir (the only competitor for the honor might be 1990, the peak of the crack wars, when the five boroughs logged an astounding 2,245 homicides). Granted, I didn’t see much—we stayed at the Plaza, about as insulated from mayhem as one could get—but just having been there in that poisoned year remains a perverse point of pride, like I was, however peripherally, a part of something big.

I actually lived in Manhattan when David Dinkins was mayor and in the District of Columbia when Marion Barry was. I was up north during the L.A. riots, but family was there, and—having spent part of every year in the Southland for more than a decade—I knew enough to be worried for them. Two years later, I would move down myself.


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