The End of the ‘Libertarian Moment’

This article first appeared at: The Orange County Register.

The decision by Speaker Paul Ryan to leave the House reflects the failings of our current flawed political configuration. Ryan may have been personally a cut above his critics on the right and left, but he ended up the victim of his own ideology.

We often talk about “political Islam” as a challenge. But America too, over the past two decades also has been driven by two dueling political religions — libertarianism and progressivism. Encouraged by ideologically driven donors, supported by their own media and academic claques and dominated by university-educated professionals, these ideologues are often deaf to the needs of middle- and working-class Americans. Their failings opened the door for the ideologically incoherent and emotionally unmoored Donald Trump.

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Is This the End for the Neoliberal World Order?

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

Whatever his grievous shortcomings, President Trump has succeeded in one thing: smashing the once imposing edifice of neoliberalism. His presidency rejects the neoliberal globalist perspective on trade, immigration and foreign relations, including a penchant for military intervention, that has dominated both parties’ political establishments for well over two decades. Read more

Left and Lefter in California

This article first appeared at City Journal.

The California Democratic Party’s refusal to endorse the reelection of Senator Dianne Feinstein represents a breaking point both for the state’s progressives and, arguably, the future of the party nationwide. Feinstein symbolizes, if anyone does, the old Democratic establishment that, while far from conservative, nevertheless appealed to many mainstream businesses and affluent suburban voters. The rejection of Feinstein reveals the eclipse of the moderate, mainstream Democratic Party, and the rise of Green and identity-oriented politics, appealing to the coastal gentry. It offers little to traditional middle-class Democrats and even less to those further afield, in places like the industrial Midwest or the South. In these parts of the country, bread-and-butter issues that concern families remain more persuasive than gestural politics.

To its many admirers back east, California has emerged as the role model for a brave new Democratic future. The high-tech, culturally progressive Golden State seems to be an ideal incubator of whatever politics will follow the Trump era.

Certainly, California is an ideal place to observe this shift, as radicalism faces no restraints here. The Republican Party has little to no influence in politics and culture and not much even among business leaders. For the Democrats, this vacuum allows for a kind of internecine struggle resembling that of the Bolsheviks after the death of Lenin. And just as happened then, a new Stalinism of sorts seems to be emerging—in this case, to the consternation not only of conservatives but also of traditional liberals and moderates of the Feinstein stamp.

Read the entire piece at City Journal.

Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, was published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo: BenFranske [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

From Disruption to Dystopia: Silicon Valley Envisions the City of the Future

This article first appeared at The Daily Beast.

The tech oligarchs who already dominate our culture and commerce, manipulate our moods, and shape the behaviors of our children while accumulating capital at a rate unprecedented in at least a century want to fashion our urban future in a way that dramatically extends the reach of the surveillance state already evident in airports and on our phones. Read more

Getting On the Road to Republican Resurgence

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

In his bitter attack on the new budget agreement, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, stumbled on the reality of his party’s grim identity crisis. Since the Reagan era, the GOP represented a convergence of corporate interests, social conservatives and free market libertarians. Like Paul and the tea party, all three of these groups have lost power and influence under Trump. Read more

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan is a Rare, and Potentially Bipartisan, Feel Good Moment

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register

President Trump’s proposed trillion dollar plus infrastructure program represents a rare, and potentially united feel good moment. Yet before we jump into a massive re-do of our transportation, water and electrical systems, it’s critical to make sure we get some decent bang for the federal buck. Read more

The Three Faces of the Democratic Party Are Coming to a Head

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

In the wake of President Trump’s first official State of the Union speech, and the positive momentum in the economy, the putative “party of the people” now faces a much under-addressed internal crisis. United against Trump, the factions which dominate the party increasingly operate at cross purposes.

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A Year Into Trump’s Peasant Rebellion

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

A year into office, Donald Trump remains something of an unlikely figure: a self-promoting and well-heeled demagogue who leads a bedraggled coalition of piratical capitalists, southerners, and people from the has-been or never were towns of Middle America. His fiercest opponents largely come from the apex of our society: the tech oligarchy, a rabidly hostile press and the cultural and academic hegemons. Read more

Can the Trump Economy Trump Trump?

This article first appeared at City Journal.

President Trump’s critics find it hard to give him credit for anything, especially given his extraordinary boastfulness. Yet Trump’s economic policies seem to be working. New job numbers are robust, GDP and wages continue to rise, stocks are soaring, unemployment continues to decline, and overall growth is at its highest in 13 years. And this salutary picture is not exclusive to big business; the index of small business optimism, as measured by the National Federation of Independent Business, has reached its highest level in the 45-year history of the survey.

Some positive trends can be traced to the Obama years, but there’s clearly been a shift in trajectory and direction of the economy. As President Obama once noted, “elections have consequences.” Under Obama, federal policies—the “stimulus,” non-regulation of tech giants, ultra-low interest rates— benefited urban core, blue-state bastions that now constitute the unshakeable base of the Democratic Party. Under Trump, most working- and middle-class workers benefit from higher standard tax deductions and energy deregulation, while the affluent in high-tax states like California, New York, and Illinois are likely not to do as well.

Read the entire piece at City Journal.

Is There a Niche for Sensible Politics in America?

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

Given the current state of American politics, and those of our state of California, our founding fathers might well consider not just turning over in their graves but boring deeper towards the earth’s core. Yet amidst the almost unceasing signs of discord and hyperbolic confrontation, there exists a more sensible approach which could help rescue our wobbling Republic.

Centrism has long been the subject of well-meaning advocacy but has lacked a class or geographic focus. It most defines the politics of the suburban middle. Much of the urban core — where Clinton and other Democrats often win as many as 80 to 90 percent of the vote — is now about as deep blue as the Soviet Union was red. For its part, the countryside has emerged so much as the bastion of Trumpism that MSNBC’s Joy Reid labels rural voters, “the core threat to our democracy.”

A niche for sensible politics?

Most Americans do not live in either the urban core or rural periphery; more than half live in suburban areas which nearly split their ballots in 2016 , with perhaps a slight edge for President Trump. Many suburban areas — not only in California or New York but in places like Fort Bend County, outside Houston — went for Clinton. Democrats won big recently in the Virginia suburbs, and did better in those in Alabama; both resulted in stinging defeats for Trump and the GOP.

To consolidate these gains, Democrats need to resist the tendency, most epitomized by the likes of Gov. Jerry Brown, to detest not only suburbs, but the entire notion of expanded property ownership, privacy and personal autonomy. Suburbanites may not like Trump’s nativism and grossness, but they do have an interest in preserving their way of life.

A more reasoned, problem solving approach seems the best course as well for Republicans. The most popular governors in the nation, for example, are not progressive firebrands like Brown or Washington’s Jay Inslee, both under 50 percent approval. Nor are right-wing firebrands so popular; Kansas’ Sam Brownback wins plaudits from less than a quarter of his electorate. They are measured politicians like Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, Republicans from deep blue states with roughly two-thirds approval.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, was published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (John Kasich) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons