APPEL: The Damage The Progressive Movement Is Doing To Our Cities

Is progressivism killing our cities?

Ask an urban politician and the answer will be something about culture, fairness, and equity. Ask a conservative politician and the answer will be something akin to the last person out should turn off the lights. As I fall into the latter category, let me explain my thinking.

A few years ago, when I was in the Senate, a group of well-intentioned African American ministers came to a committee to ask for our help. Their point was that in their estimation 72% of African American children lived in homes without fathers. They wanted to start a program to help turn that horrid statistic around.

The liberal changes in our society that legitimized a fathers’ abandonment of his responsibilities and societies ambivalence to it has always disturbed me, so I spoke before the whole Senate and asked for us to help them. As soon as I returned to my seat a well-known progressive Democrat, seething in anger, ran over to me and told me that what I said was the most racist thing he had ever heard. My belief has always been that to him I as a white conservative senator was precluded from discussing any issues in the black community. Even when I pointed out that I was just repeating what ten black ministers had asked, it did not matter; to him I was violating some principle known only to black progressives, a principle that outsiders were not allowed to challenge the failure of progressive policies and in doing so I must be de-legitimized by the broad brush of faux racism.

That incident stays with me today as I watch so many of our cities lose out on the prosperity that has been the hallmark of our nation. How can progressive Democrats be so blind to the outcomes of their policies? Perhaps, the answer is they are not, but they have found a political formula that works and as long as people maintain trust in them, they will keep on doing it.

Broken families, crime, terrible education outcomes, crumbling cities, the drug epidemic, few job prospects, government dependency. Directly or indirectly the amplitude of the negative impact on cities is the result of decades of progressive policies and progressive leadership. And yet all we hear from progressives is a veiled attempt to avert critique by placing blame on everyone but themselves; you know how it goes, the constant drumbeat of systemic racism, unfairness, inequity, undefined hate, on and on.


One never hears a progressive leader challenging the orthodoxy of failed policy. In the progressive playbook the best defense is a good offense. So, just as happened to me, when anyone outside of the closed circle of progressive politicians questions their orthodoxy, that interloper is immediately savaged. And now in our time of the unshakable alliance of progressive politicians and the media, savaging a non-progressive who dares to step forward takes the more virulent form of being cancelled.

Are progressives destroying our cities? I suppose the answer to that is recognizable by a quick tour of cities like Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, and so many others. Cities that for fifty years or more have been totally controlled by progressive Democrats. And even if some cities have enough economic momentum to not be entirely on the decline, those such as Chicago witness growing urban cores of decay surrounded by the prosperity of those of all races who abandoned them to progressive control years before.

The simple answer is yes, progressivism is destroying our cities. It promises so much to so many paid for by so few. It robs people of their belief in themselves as it preaches of an inability to control their own destiny. It is cultivated by politicians who have mastered the art of engaging the herd instinct in people, as they huddle in increasingly monolithic urban centers to protect against perceived dangers. It robs people of their spirit and delivers growing social ills. And worse of all, it drives away people and business that do not need or want to suffer the ills of progressivism or to bankroll its punitive costs.



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