~ Saturday, November 09, 2002
Why Democrats should love property developers

I have been meaning to say something for a couple weeks about Nathan Newman's great post about density, zoning, and the environment.

Nathan picks on supposedly green Berkeleyites, and they surely deserve it. I had the same complaints about Seattle, where almost every new housing unit has to have an off-street parking place to go with it. That rule adds a lot to the price tag of new housing, and also contributes to sprawl (since the space devoted to driveways and garages is a de facto limitation on density). Of course, it makes sure that wealthy urbanites will have plenty of on-street parking places for their second BMWs.

But supposedly libertarian Republicans are even more hypocritical. Here in Minnesota, every time a developer proposes a dense, mixed-use suburban housing and retail project, the right-wing suburbanites raise hell about the threat to their way of life -- meaning, of course, the threat to their artifically inflated property values. (Our new Republican state auditor made her reputation as the mayor of Eagan by opposing all moderate income housing development in her city.)

Democrats need to stand for affordable housing.
No other stand can do as much for working class
Americans. 28 million Americans are paying
over 30% of their income on housing.
Fighting restrictions on dense development is
the single best weapon we have to fight
high housing costs. (Changing property taxes
so that they tax land more than buildings would
be a good second step.) Not only is fighting
those restrictions the right thing to do, it is
politically smart. The Democratic Party needs
more money to compete with the Republicans.
Developers have money, and, if Democrats take up
this fight, developers will be in their corner.
It's a winning issue all the way around.

Go West

Right now, it looks like Gore, Lieberman, Dean, Edwards, and Kerry are the leading Democratic contenders for 2004. They all seem like pretty good choices to me (well, maybe not Lieberman). But they share one characteristic which doesn't bode well: they're from east of the Mississippi.

In seven of the last fourteen campaigns, Democrats have run candidates from east of the Mississippi. They lost five times. Running Westerners, the Democrats have won four of seven. Republicans have won eight of twelve running candidates from west of the Mississippi, and lost both times with Easterners. That's a trend Democrats should think about.

~ Friday, November 08, 2002
Election post-mortem, part II

Matt Yglesias is also celebrating the victory of the anti-bilingual education initiative in Massachusetts.

I doubt that passing initiatives is ever a victory for anything except bad goverment. It's a horrible way to run a state.

On the bilingual education issue, I feel that this has become too much of an ideological matter, on the anti as well as the pro side. That's a shame.

This shouldn't be about promoting the American Way or legitimizing diversity or any of that baggage. It should be about teaching kids what they need to know.

Certainly, kids need to learn English. But kids also need to learn history and math and science. Even if you think that English is the most important thing (and I do), the other stuff is not trivial, and we have to consider what kind of education provides the optimal balance between those priorities. And even then, the answer is not likely to be the same for all kids at all ages. Immersion may be optimal for first or third graders, but not high-schoolers. Which is exactly the kind of distinction that could be made in legislation, but will never be made in initiatives.

Election post-mortem, part I

Matthew Yglesias accuses the Democratic leadership of fumbling the ball on choosing the right races. In particular, he thinks that money and effort would have been better spent on the Senate races in Missouri and Georgia than on Kirk in Texas and McBride in Florida--especially since, he claims, the latter had no national significance.

I might be more convinced if

(1) he had clearly better ideas about where the money and effort would have helped Democrats win,

(2) he had clearly better ideas about which races were really important,

(3) this whole exercise weren't so completely informed by hindsight.

Frankly, Democrats were already outspending the Republicans by a lot in Missouri and Georgia. Since those candidates couldn't effectively use the money advantage they already had, an even bigger dollar flush would just have been an even bigger waste. And there was simply no time to use tens of millions of dollars on the Mondale campaign.

We also need to keep in mind the real advantages of the various options here. To say that control of Florida has no consequences for national policy is insane.

The single most important goal for the Democratic Party is to elect a president in 2004. Florida is the country's biggest true swing state in presidential elections. Whoever wins Florida in 2004 will almost surely win the presidency. When the Republicans control the state government in Florida, they do everything in their power to distort elections to their advantage. Democrats simply can't afford to let Florida go without a hell of a fight.

On the other hand, losing Cleland and Carnahan was not good, but they were pretty reliable Bush allies anyway--especially Carnahan. These losses mean we will get 90% of the Bush agenda rather than 80%.

Finally, this is all after the fact speculation. Things looked totally different three weeks before the election, which is when the decisions about money and manpower had to be made.

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