Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up

I was invited in April to give a paid book talk here in Lancaster, and I was so blown away by the societal innovation the town’s leaders had employed to rebuild their once-struggling city and county that I decided to return with my reporter’s notebook and interview them.

.. Greater Lancaster is a microcosm of America. The city has a population of 60,000, about 40 percent of whom are white, 40 percent Latino — mostly Puerto Ricans whose parents came decades ago to process chickens.

.. Unwilling to let their hometown die a slow death, and fed up with weak municipal politicians, Mann and other civic leaders “got together in my living room” to become catalysts for change. “Our first insight was that leadership matters” — and if it wasn’t going to come from the politicians, then it would come from them — and it would be devoid of party politics.

.. “We found that people who were responsible for key parts of the city, business and government had never met each other,” said Mann. “They were all in their own silos, and we — Hourglass — were neutral, so we could get them together.”

.. When a leader from York told him: “Ray, you know, we take care of our own. We’re doing things our way,” D’Agostino responded, “Maybe that’s part of the problem.”

.. locate the stadium in the city’s northwest corridor in 2005. Recalled Mann: “I went to opening night and sat next to people from suburbia and they said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m in Lancaster.’”

.. Hourglass, and other groups provided the funds so public officials and the private sector could learn from the best experts in the world on how to lift their city and businesses. These included bringing in the mayor of Charleston, S.C., Joseph Riley, to explain how to build a thriving downtown; Edward Deming to teach quality improvement strategies; and an urban development expert from Brookings, Christopher Leinberger, to help create a long-term growth vision for the city and county. They’ve even looked to Denmark for insights.

..  found the hunger for best practices profound. “There is an awareness that all good ideas don’t start here,”

.. Gray, with the help of Leinberger, started by drawing up a long-term revitalization plan, which he carried around on a small note card every day to make sure every decision aligned with it.

..Gray told me he once remarked to F&M’s president, “You want to make Lancaster a place where students want to come and I want to make it a place where graduates want to stay.”

.. he forged a quiet partnership with Lloyd Smucker, a Republican who was then a state senator, to establish a community reinvestment zone that created the income stream to pay off the bonds needed to fund the convention center. “That was because Smucker and I could work together,” said Gray. “You get an awful lot done if you don’t worry who gets credit.”

.. Part of Gray’s strategic plan was also to bring public art into the city. “Art makes people feel better about themselves and their communities,” he told me, “so we made a huge push for public art

.. The unemployment rate in Lancaster County is 3.3 percent while in the city it’s over 10 percent. And while some 30 percent of the city lives below the poverty line, it reaches 50 percent in some of the poorest neighborhoods.

 

 

Jimmy Fallon tried to stay out of politics. But Trump sucked him in.

Jimmy Fallon has never been a fan of talking about politics.

“It’s just not what I do,” Fallon said in an interview last October, when asked about the pressure to be in the “anti-Trump lane” like so many of his fellow late-night TV hosts. “I don’t really even care that much about politics. I love pop culture more than I love politics.”

.. “Even though ‘The Tonight Show’ isn’t a political show, it’s my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being,” said Fallon, who added that he watched the news coverage of Charlottesville and was “sick to my stomach.”

.. But he has largely declined to address Trump, aside from monologue jokes — and now, it doesn’t even matter. Because Trump has ensnared him anyway.

.. This can’t be the ideal scenario for Fallon: Even before he took over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno in February 2014, he emphasized that he would stay away from politics. “Mr. Fallon acknowledged that his ‘Tonight’ will not be a place to go — at least initially — for hard-hitting interviews with politicians or celebrities dealing with some unpleasantness,” the New York Times wrote in a profile. “If that means taking criticism for soft interviews, Mr. Fallon said, so be it.”

“The political stuff? Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, they have it. And Stephen Colbert, who is an animal. He’s amazing,” Fallon said at the time. “Those guys are good at it. I don’t want to mess with that.”

.. “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh. People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.”

How Conservatives Can Win Back Young Americans

(By Ben Shapiro)

Young Americans are moving to the left. On virtually every issue, they support the Democratic party.

.. among likely American voters aged 18-29, fully 65 percent supported Democratic control of Congress. Polls consistently show greater warmth for socialism among millennials than their elders, greater sympathy for regulation, and less interest in protecting core constitutional liberties ranging from freedom of speech to freedom of religion

..  “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 40, you have no brain.” We tell ourselves that as Americans age, get married, have children, and pay taxes, they’ll inevitably move to the right.

Not anymore.

.. Older conservatives, clutching the Trump presidency like a security blanket, sound less like steady advocates for calm and more like the man questioned about how things are going just after jumping off the top of the Empire State Building: “So far, so good.”

.. among Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), 29 percent considered themselves liberal in 1994; today, that number has shot up to 43 percent.

..Typically, conservatives combat this sort of broad-based political change by pointing out the extremism of the left. During the Carter era, things certainly looked dark for the GOP, but conservatives were able to point out Carter’s incompetence; after Bill Clinton’s 1992 election victory, Republicans ran against Hillarycare and higher taxes; after Barack Obama’s landslide 2008 election, conservatives made war on Democrats’ overspending and regulatory overreach.

..  Thought leaders like Ta-Nehisi Coates have sought to replace the blue-collar base of Bill Clinton with the intersectional coalition of Barack Obama, using identity politics as a club against Americans who refuse to admit their “white privilege.”

.. Instead of looking at young Americans vs. older Americans, let’s look at young conservatives vs. older conservatives. The data show that young conservatives tend toward libertarianism on issues like drugs and sex but share the same priorities as older conservatives on fiscal and economic issues.

.. It makes sense, then, that liberal social values have resonated with younger Americans. They believe that the case for religious freedom is actually a case for religious bigotry and think that opposition to same-sex marriage reflects a hackneyed version of Old Testament sexual repression. Millennials were raised on the gospel of diversity and tolerance, not the Judeo-Christian moral standards of their grandparents.

.. But the leftward shift on social issues has infused even young religious conservatives. Forty-five percent of millennial evangelicals said they supported same-sex marriage as of 2014; the numbers are undoubtedly higher now

.. Young conservatives in general are far more likely to support gay rights and marijuana decriminalization as well as openness to immigration. But they’re not embracing gay rights and marijuana decriminalization for the same reasons as liberals. Young liberals embrace the LGBTQ agenda because they believe that the strictures of traditional sexual lifestyles are damaging and intolerant; some even embrace marijuana decriminalization because they think that broadening one’s experiences by smoking pot is a necessary precondition to maturity. Young conservatives are far more likely to support same-sex marriage and marijuana decriminalization because they believe that the government should leave everyone alone.

.. Young liberals call for tolerance because they want to promulgate a lifestyle, in other words; young conservatives call for tolerance because they actually believe in tolerance, even of lifestyle choices with which they disagree.

.. Tolerance is a moral touchstone, then, for young Americans on both the left and the right, but for different reasons.

.. All of which suggests young conservatives have a shot at winning over their friends and classmates: They’re operating in the same moral universe as many of their peers.

.. They’re small government, leave-everyone-alone libertarians. Young conservatives may not care about same-sex marriage, but they’re deeply pro-life and pro-gun.

..  They militantly oppose the myth of a racist, sexist America, even as they condemn individual cases of racism and sexism.

.. An incredible 82 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters between the ages of 18 and 24 say they “want another Republican to challenge President Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.”

.. Why don’t young conservatives like Trump? It’s a question that baffles older conservatives. To older conservatives, Trump has been a savior.

..  Yes, he’s rough around the edges and impolitic; he’s crude about women and ignorant about policy. But he’s politically incorrect, and he speaks the language of the average American. What’s not to like?

.. Young conservatives, however, are more likely to see Trump as an obstacle to progress.

.. they see him mainly as a club the left can wield against the right in perpetuity—a political monster living under the bed that Democrats can dredge up every time conservatives seem to be making headway. They cite his egregious response to the Charlottesville alt-right march and subsequent terror attack and his willingness to wink and nod at the alt-right during the campaign; they point to his nasty comments regarding women, as well as his penchant for bedding porn stars; they cringe at his reported comments about immigrants and balk at his nearly endless list of prevarications.

.. Older conservatives judge Trump on his politics; younger conservatives judge Trump on his values.

.. older conservatives already fought the character battle over Bill Clinton, and they carry the scars from that ordeal. They remember arguing that Bill Clinton was unfit for office based on his treatment of women and his perjury, and they remember losing that argument. They remember arguing that character counts, even as Democrats held aloft the banner of “Lion of the Senate” Teddy Kennedy, who left a woman to drown in his car and made waitress sandwiches with fellow Democratic senator Chris Dodd.

.. Older conservatives remember Mitt Romney, the cleanest candidate for high office in modern American history, being destroyed by the media over pure nonsense. Older conservatives weren’t looking for character in 2016. They were looking for a hammer.

.. Younger conservatives, however, still feel that the battle over character is unfolding, which it is—among young Americans. Young Americans are still trying to decipher which party best reflects their moral values. Trump presents a serious problem for young conservatives trying to make the character argument in favor of the Republican party. Young conservatives didn’t see the battle of 2016 as a battle in which character had already lost. They saw it as presenting a question about their own character.

.. Young conservatives want to be able to tell their friends—all future voters, by the way—that they didn’t stand by silently when a candidate of their party said he could grab women by their private parts.

.. Second, older conservatives saw the 2016 election as a cataclysmic event, perhaps, indeed, the end of the republic. Hillary Clinton posed an existential threat to the future of the country.

.. They believed that Hillary, if elected, would usher in a generation-long rule of the hard left.

.. Donald Trump’s victory, in that view, was a miracle of biblical proportions, the hand of God reaching down and plucking a reality TV star out of the realms of cornball theatrics and plopping him into the Oval Office in the biggest upset in political history.

.. Younger conservatives were far more sanguine about 2016. In their view, Hillary would certainly have been a rotten president. But would she bar the door to all future conservative victories? Younger conservatives thought such an outcome unlikely.

After all, Republicans were likely to retain control of the Senate and the House.

Furthermore, Hillary was widely disliked, burdened by scandal, and unpopular even with her own base.

Older conservatives looked at young Americans and saw the end of the country; young conservatives looked at other young Americans and saw the possibility of change.

.. Third, because young conservatives and older conservatives disagreed about the consequences of 2016, they also disagreed about the level of risk to the Republican party.

.. Thanks to the crisis mentality of older Americans, the brand damage done by Trump became of secondary concern;

thanks to the lack of a crisis mentality among younger conservatives, the brand damage done by Trump became a crucial problem.

.. Young conservatives simply couldn’t understand how so many older conservatives were willing to dispose of key planks of the Republican platform to back Trump, or why so many older conservatives who had preached to them about personal values were suddenly gushing over a man who bragged about sleeping with other men’s wives.

.. Young conservatives knew that they were constantly being called racist, sexist, and homophobic by their comrades at school; they had always responded by saying that they and their party were being slandered. And they were right. But here was Trump—a man who, during the election cycle, feigned ignorance about David Duke—providing a custom-made caricature for the use of young liberals.

.. fourth area of controversy between older and younger conservatives regarding Trump: Is Trump an asset in the fight against political correctness?

.. 71 percent of Americans “believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have.”

.. Older conservatives resonate to the verbal brickbats thrown by President Trump. They see him as a bull in a china shop, but he is our bull in their china shop. That’s the reason Trump could so easily escape punishment for political snafus that would have crushed any other conservative. He routinely claimed his own blunderings were the result of his willingness to fight political correctness. “Sure, he says dumb stuff sometimes,” the argument goes, “but he’s also willing to label the New York Times fake news. Nobody else fights like Trump fights!”

.. Young conservatives, by contrast, see Trump’s strategy for fighting political correctness as counterproductive. It’s one thing to attack politically correct viewpoints with data —to “destroy,” in the common YouTube parlance, political opposition through superior intellectual heft. But saying innately offensive things and then justifying those offensive statements under the rubric of political incorrectness actually undermines the battle against political correctness.

.. The left wants to make the case that when conservatives say they’re being politically incorrect, they’re actually covering for their own bigotry; lending that case a helping hand by promoting bigotry under the guise of fighting political correctness does the left’s work for it.

.. conservatives must stop promoting the notion that policy victories translate to political victory. Foolishly hopeful Republican legislators keep repeating the tired nostrum that if they simply pursue solid policy, young Americans will follow—if they pass tax cuts, cut regulation, and build up the military, they’ll stave off the impending generational electoral tsunami.

.. That argument did little to stir older Americans who had been through the political wars; it didn’t upset seasoned politics-watchers who knew that Hillary Clinton was more than a little deplorable herself. But it worked among young Americans, and it will continue to work so long as conservatives’ response is “but Hillary.”

.. So, how should conservatives respond?

They should respond by acting morally and arguing morally.

First, and most pressingly, with regard to President Trump this means condemning bad behavior.

.. Young Americans aren’t judging Trump. They’ve already judged him. They’re judging you and determining whether or not they can ever vote for the same candidates you endorse based on whether or not they admire your character.

.. Second, conservatives must argue in moral terms, and they must use moral terminology young Americans understand. This means learning to argue on secular grounds rather than religious grounds and recognizing that tolerance is a key value to young Americans.

.. Arguing in secular terms doesn’t mean arguing without reference to values. It means arguing against the controlling hand of the left. Capitalism is good because you own your own labor and you have the right to exchange that labor for someone else’s labor and no one has the right to steal your labor from you. Socialism is evil because it says that a third party can tell you what your labor is worth.

..  Political correctness and identity politics are evil because they utilize censorship to box you into a group identity that denies your individuality.

.. Most of all, conservatives can’t lose hope. A crisis mentality breeds poor decisions and short-term thinking that sacrifices long-term interests. We’ve seen discouraging trendlines before. But they can be reversed. In 1976, it would have been difficult to imagine the Reagan Revolution that was just four years away.