The 2012 Republican Party platform is a voluminous document that is filled with wisdom and purported wisdom. But, sadly, one of the few possible subjects of Republican wisdom that is omitted is the fate and future of American cities. Now, to be fair, the platform does excoriate the City of Washington D.C. as an example of every urban failing that can be attributed to the incompetence of Big Government – i.e., the Democrats.
But, the fact of the matter is that American cities, including Washington D.C., Uptown New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, are filled with Republicans. And, in many cases, as often occurs in Uptown New Orleans, these registered urban-living Republicans reside right next door to conservative Democrats who regularly and predictably vote Republican in Presidential and other elections.
Indeed, in some of the reddest states in America – Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas – you will find some of the nicest urban neighborhoods in New Orleans, Metairie, Little Rock, Jackson, Natchez, Birmingham, Mobile, Dallas and Austin – chock full of Republicans along with Democrats who are very comfortable voting for Republican candidates.
So, what’s the problem? Surely the GOP bigwigs who write the platform are as aware of this population truth as we are. Danae thinks the problem is that philosophically, Republicans at the highest level of their political party are filled with disdain for the myths about urban life – a squalid mix of poor minorities living in slum-like crime-ridden conditions where welfare queens cavort in bright red Cadillacs and students get free lunches at school.
Now, in truth and in fact, there are troubled neighborhoods in every urban community that we know about, including New Orleans. Indeed, in New Orleans’ unique neighborhood set-ups, there are such neighborhoods adjacent to some of the nicest residential streets in the Uptown area. And, it isn’t unusual to see such down-at-the-heels neighborhoods gentrified not just in New Orleans but in cities around the nation as suburban dwellers decide they would enjoy an urban environment for all the reasons that we all know very well or young pioneers come along who have a hunger to convert what had once been considered a slum occupied by the impoverished into something much nicer, such as a row of rehabbed shotgun doubles that have been taken from the bottom of the economic heap to quite pricey.
So, our question is why is it a problem for the Republican platform to acknowledge these known urban realities? Why can’t Mitt Romney talk about using federal funds (perhaps taken from the shutdown of PBS and Sesame Street) to fix city sidewalks, replace aged sewerage infrastructure, improve buckled streets, and provide health care for the uninsured. Once again, Danae says that for the GOP to take a progressive view of the urban spaces that are also home to Republicans and their conservative Democratic and Independent allies, they would have to admit that their disdain for urban spaces is based on myths and, sometimes, bigotry.
In the same context, Governor Bobby Jindal is no fan of New Orleans and other urban dwellers in south Louisiana. The folks in St. Tammany Parish are shocked about the impact of the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital. There are almost no beds available in the region for mental health patients.
That’s really too bad. As many Republicans in Uptown New Orleans could tell the bigwigs of their party, there is much to be said for city living and the need of any community for strong quality-of-life services. No Republican President since the late Richard Nixon has made a conscious effort to help America’s cities. Mitt Romney seems to be edging toward a centrist view of American life.
Even though the reduction in national unemployment has in part mitigated Obama’s poor performance in the first debate, we still think that Romney has pulled ahead. Tonight’s Vice Presidential debate could help move undecided voters one way or another. Perhaps, if Romney wins on November 6, there will be room in his heart to care about America’s cities, the home of millions of American jobs that contribute significantly to the country’s tax base.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board and District B City Council candidate Dana Kaplan, and among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City Councilwoman Stacy Head, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. Robert Billiot.