Who Should Really Favor "Burning Down The Suburbs"?

MLewyn's picture

National Review's website contains an article accusing President Obama of "Burning Down the Suburbs."  The article's basic claim is in the first paragraph: "Obama is a longtime supporter of “regionalism,” the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation."'

Since the federal government has zero power over municipal boundaries, this argument is at some variance with factual reality. 
But let's look at the substantive issue instead: let's imagine that instead of being President Obama, we were talking about Governor Obama. Suppose Gov. Obama wants Chicago to annex its suburbs.  Is this really something conservatives or Republicans should oppose?

I'm not so sure. In many Sun Belt cities, cities have been able to annex their suburbs to a much greater extent than in Rust Belt states like Illinois; for example, Jacksonville encompasses 800 square miles.  But these cities are hardly liberal-dominated dens of redistribution.  Jacksonville has had Republican mayors for most of the past twenty years (though a split in the Republican Party caused a Democratic upset in 2011).  Dallas had a Republican mayor until 2011. San Diego and Oklahoma City currently have Republican mayors, and Charlotte's Republican ex-mayor Patrick McCrory is likely to become governor.  Even Democrats in these cities are often more conservative than Democrats in 40-square-mile cities; for example, Jacksonville's Alvin Brown won Republican votes by running as an anti-tax moderate. Such super-cities" tend, I think, to be less tax-happy than cities which (like New York) are stuck in their 1950 boundaries.

In sum, conservatives may actually benefit politically when suburban and urban areas are politically integrated.  Canada's Conservatives actually realize this, which is why in the 1990s Ontario's Tory provincial government forced Toronto to merge with many of its suburbs (against furious left-wing opposition).   As a result, Toronto has a right-wing mayor today, rather than being a left-wing ghetto. 

 

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