BAYHAM: The GOP Must Fight In The Cities

This week Lori Lightfoot exited as Chicago’s mayor, the first incumbent denied a second term as leader of the Windy City in four decades.

Caustic, stridently progressive, and unable in an measurable way to effectively deal with Chicago’s violent crime that resulted in over 2000 murders since taking office, Lightfoot was rightly, unceremoniously, thrown out of office in the mayoral primary and subjected to the indignity of watching other candidates battle to replace her in the runoff.

Repeated incidents of juvenile wildings have decimated the business sector in Chicago’s Loop while on the northside of the Chicago River a number of big brands have abandoned the storefronts along the prestigious retail corridor of Michigan Avenue, contracting to a once unthinkable vacancy rate of 30%.

A city known for opulence and high-end luxury shopping is hollowing out from its commercial core as people feel unsafe on the sidewalks and on mass transit and merchants have become exhausted from the brazen theft and threats to their employees and customers.

And that’s before factoring the high costs of taxes and regulations foisted upon commercial enterprise by local authorities that see themselves more as the avenging redistributors of wealth than competent providers of essential services and facilitators of prosperity.

While Lightfoot, particularly with her draconian COVID policies that she did not apply to herself, made for an easy bete noire for conservatives, the mayoral runoff results indicate that Lightfoot was not turned out of office for being too leftist, but astoundingly for not being progressive enough.

Community organizer Brandon Johnson, the candidate of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, triumphed with just over 52% of the vote over Paul Vallas, whose campaign was framed around cracking down on wanton crime.

Prior to running for mayor, Johnson flirted with the defund-the-police rhetoric and then as a candidate played coy about his previous embrace of it.

In an interview after his election when Chicago youths engaged in a flash mob that led to multiple vehicles being damaged in downtown the mayor-elect attempted to dance on the head of the progressive pin, refusing to condemn the perpetrators and then attempted to spin the incident where two teenagers were shot as a political act that demonstrated the lack of opportunities for young people.

The people have spoken and amazingly enough they have doubled down on high crime. Chicago and its electorate  more committed to the pursuit of progressive ideals than improved public safety are not not unique from other major cities and their enlightened denizens.

Of America’s ten largest cities in in terms of population, eight have Democratic mayors. San Antonio and Honolulu are led by independents, with the former being a self-described progressive while Hawaii’s capital is administered by a (hold on to your surf boards) conservative.

Jacksonville, America’s eleventh largest city, currently has a Republican mayor but just this week elected a Democrat. Upon the new mayor taking office there, the largest city in the US with a Republican mayor will be Fort Worth. The remainder of the list is heavily Democratic.

In many of these cities the GOP brand is toxic and presidential and statewide candidates perform poorly in those wards necessitating running up the score in the suburbs and rural areas to win electoral votes and gubernatorial and US Senate races.

However by deserting the fight for city voters, distrust of Republicans becomes far more prevalent and systemic to the detriment of GOP candidates for state offices, whose names appear on ballots in these increasingly politically hostile precincts.

But beyond the electoral difficulties the city vote poses for Republican statewide candidates, inner-city voters deserve a choice and an alternative to the urban uniparty solutions.

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And here’s the thing: there could be unexpected direct dividends.

In Louisiana, Republicans in Shreveport, which is experiencing its own spike in crime, pulled off a major upset in last December’s mayoral runoff when black Democratic candidates who lost in the primary openly supported Republican Tom Arceneaux, who won the runoff with 56%.

Conversely where there’s no effort, there’s no reward.

On the diagonally opposite side of the state in New Orleans Republicans failed to run a credible candidate for mayor or city council in the 2021 elections.

Worse, no organized effort was made during redistricting to fight for a reconstitution of the Republican leaning District A council seat that had been occupied by Republicans for many years until 2006 and thereafter gerrymandered into oblivion.

No engagement translates into no hope for changing voting behavior as sudden mass epiphanies almost voting blocs are few and far between.

The Republican Party has a message, if only being the opposition to the policies of generational urban decay under Democratic misrule, to sell to city voters.

Making the attempt won’t be easy, it won’t reap immediate returns, and it won’t come cheap.

And it’s going to require the GOP to leave its comfort zone.

Yet to be blunt that comfort zone has become increasingly uncomfortable anyway as the suburban ring that once served as a political shock absorber to the city vote has changed in the past decade from red to purple to light blue.

Cobb County isn’t what it used to be and there are ominous comparable trends in Louisiana that ought to make Louisiana Republicans feel uncomfortable, at least those Republican leaders who care about the ten years following 2023 elections.

As the fading greatest generation are supplanted on the registrar rolls by a younger generation of voters raised in the suburbs but academically nursed in the school system and then universities on the venom of ideological progressivism and cultural Marxism, Republicans reengaging in urban areas is a necessity not just for victory but as a means of existence as a viable political alternative to the socialist-oriented Democratic Party.

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