Republicans have been celebrating their good fortune as Democrats vying for the presidential nomination propose free medical care for undocumented people and the elimination of private health insurance, and open borders, not to mention reparations for slavery and the near-term elimination of fossil fuels. Add it up, and it may be enough to keep Doctor Demento in the White House for four more years.
Those same Republicans, though, have said little about free-market policies that undermine their own middle-class base while bolstering the very forces that are arrayed to wipe the GOP off the political map.
Call it a conservative suicide pact and you won’t be far off. Conservative free-market fundamentalists with disproportionate influence on GOP policy are advancing plans that would divorce capitalism from the small property owners whose pieces of property secure the system’s popular support.
Start with the suburban middle class families who make up the GOPs historic base, and remain its bulwark. The expansion of homeownership, from 44 percent in 1940 to 63 percent in the 1960s, keyed the GOP’s post-New Deal resurgence as ethnic groups who had always voted Democratic now had something to protect, albeit sometimes with a racial agenda, thanks to an economic system that had helped them reach their aspirations.
That includes California State Senator Scott Wiener’s effort to force high-density on residential areas by allowing fourplexes on virtually any parcel, which produced one of the strangest alliances in recent political history. Free market advocates—many of them funded by the Koch brothers—linked arms with left-wing and green activists reprising the arguments made in the Soviet Bloc against middle-class single-family neighborhoods. Victoria Fierce, one of the leaders of the YIMBY pro-density lobby in California, has even argued that density is better since it promotes a “collectivism”—as beloved by Bolshevik town-planners.
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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. He authored The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, published in 2016 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.