The Real Governments of Blue America

Officially, a big part of the federal government shut down late last month. In important ways, however, America’s government went AWOL almost two years earlier, when Donald Trump was inaugurated.

After all, politicians supposedly seek office in order to get stuff done — to tackle real problems and implement solutions. But neither Trump, who spends his energy inventing crises at the border, nor the Republicans who controlled Congress for two years have done any of that. Their only major legislative achievement was a tax cut that blew up the deficit without, as far as anyone can tell, doing anything to enhance the economy’s long-run growth prospects.

Meanwhile, there has been no hint of the infrastructure plan Trump promised to deliver. And after many years of denouncing Obamacare and promising to provide a far better replacement, Republicans turned out to have no idea how to do that, and in particular no plan to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Why can’t Republicans govern? It’s not just that their party is committed to an ideology that says that government is always the problem, never the solution. Beyond that, they have systematically deprived themselves of the ability to analyze policies and learn from evidence, because hard thinking might lead someone to question received doctrine.

And Republicans still control the Senate and the White House. So even when (if?) the shutdown ends, it will be at least two years before we have a government in Washington that’s actually capable of, or even interested in, governing.

Until recently Republicans had a virtual lock on state government. Almost half the population lived in states with Republican “trifectas,” that is, G.O.P. control of both houses plus the governorship. Democrats had comparable control in California, and pretty much nowhere else.

But elections since then have transformed the picture. New Jersey and Washington went full Democratic in 2017, and six more states, including Illinois and New York, flipped in November. At this point more than a third of Americans live under full Democratic control, not far short of the Republican total.

These newly empowered majorities are moving quickly to start governing again. And the experience of states that already had Democratic trifectas suggests that they may achieve a lot.

And health care isn’t the only front for new action. For example, Newsom is also proposing major new spending on education and housing affordability. The latter is very important: Soaring housing costs are the biggest flaw in California’s otherwise impressive success story.

Now, let’s be clear: Not all of the new Democratic policy proposals will actually be implemented, and not all of those that do go into effect will live up to expectations. There’s no such thing as perfection, in policy or in life, and leaders who never experience failures or setbacks aren’t taking enough risks.

The point, however, is that newly empowered state and local politicians do seem willing to take risks and try new things in an effort to make progress against the nation’s problems.

And that’s a very hopeful sign for America, because their example may prove contagious.

Justice Louis Brandeis famously described the states as the laboratories of democracy; right now they’re the places where we’re seeing what it looks like when elected officials try to do what they were elected to do, and actually govern. If we’re lucky, two years from now that attitude may re-establish itself in the nation’s capital.

 

Michael Dell Paid a Record $100.47 Million for Manhattan’s One57 Penthouse

Michael Dell was the buyer behind the $100.47 million purchase of a penthouse on Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row, according to two people familiar with the deal. The transaction, which closed in 2014, holds the record for the most expensive home ever sold in New York City.

.. Located in One57, a more than 1,000-foot-tall glass tower on West 57th Street, the duplex apartment totals 10,923 square feet with six bedrooms and six bathrooms, according to an offering plan for the project.

.. It is the first and only property in the city to break the $100 million barrier, public records show, but that record is widely expected to be broken by the sale of a penthouse at a nearby project at 220 Central Park South, which has not yet closed.

.. Last year, Mr. Dell entered into contract to buy another penthouse in Boston. The property is in the Four Seasons Private Residences One Dalton Street and had been on the market for close to $40 million.

.. also bought a $10.9 million condo at Boston’s Millennium Tower in 2016, records show, following a $60 billion deal by his company to acquire EMC, based in Hopkinton, Mass.

National Review Finally Gets It Right on Stop-and-Frisk

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the New York City police tactic of Stop-and-Frisk was unconstitutional because it violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on illegal searches and seizures. It was good to have such a ruling, but the notion that police officers could search random people based on nothing more than a hunch should have struck everyone as unconstitutional from the get-go. In America, you can’t just stop passersby (so many of whom were innocent) and intrude on their personal spaces and lives in brute fashion.

.. Democrat Bill de Blasio vowed to end the practice, something many in law enforcement and on the political right insisted would inevitably spike crime. That isn’t what happened. Today crime is down in New York City significantly, to levels not seen since the 1950s.

.. de Blasio was correct in saying the city could withstand a sharp decrease in stop-and-frisk. And he was right to draw attention to the social cost of the practice; more than 80 percent of those subjected to stop-and-frisk since the start of the Bloomberg administration were, according to the NYPD, completely innocent. That means hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were unjustly subjected to embarrassment or even humiliation.

.. The basic freedom of a man or woman to walk down the streets of New York or any other city without fear of being harassed by law enforcement is something we should all be able to agree on and defend. There are no exceptions great enough to dismiss that principle. It’s why we have a Fourth Amendment in the first place.

.. Government will always tend towards exploiting our fear to take away our constitutional rights: mass shootings, murderous white supremacists, urban crime.