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The Great Urban Divide 

Publisher's Note

"America's cities are becoming laboratories for progressive policies." So states the recent Spokane County Republican Party video, "The Tyranny of Good Intentions," and as you might have guessed, that's not viewed as a good thing. "We," the folksy narrator continues, "need to turn our attention to the city of Spokane."

click to enlarge mcgregor.jpg

That's right, City of Spokane: Despite requiring officeholders to be nonpartisan, the GOP is coming.

The video has a pleasant vibe — it stays away from sticky social issues and endorses a business-first, freedom-loving platform. Heck, the national party would do well to take a look. And I'm not bothered by them wanting to take on incumbents; our leaders should have to defend their ideas.

But I thought I'd point out a few things about cities "becoming laboratories for progressive policies." For starters, it's nothing new. Cities are places where the talking points that power the D.C. GOP don't cut it. City-dwellers want their problems solved, and, voters seem to be saying, progressive ideas are working better.

Consider Salt Lake City, the biggest city in the nation's most conservative state. Mayor Ralph Becker, a Democrat, won by 50 points even though he champions both non-discrimination laws and gay marriage. Boise Mayor David Bieter? A progressive and early supporter of Barack Obama. How about the 2012 presidential election? Texas is pretty conservative, but Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio all voted for Obama. The only four major cities to vote for Mitt Romney were Phoenix (barely), Oklahoma City, Fort Worth and Salt Lake City.

Here's a little secret: The split in America is not so much between red states and blue states. The real split is between urban and rural America. In rural places, those feel-good, anti-government talking points rally the troops, but in a city, leaders have to deliver actual quality-of-life results. Urban Americans are often willing to spend a little public money or change policy if it looks like it will bring progress.

Which leads to the STA's request for additional funding to meet our region's needs. (For the record, I'm voting for it.) In its recent recommendation against, the same Spokane GOP said, essentially, that it's all for public transportation, but not, you know, if it costs anything more. Maybe a Bus Fairy could fly in and pay for our public transit?

So, Spokane County Republican Party, it's great that you want to get more involved in city politics. But don't buy the vision of Spokane as a laboratory filled with dark experiments in big government. As in most urban places, it's just a bunch of citizens doing their best to make their city a happy home. ♦

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