Inner-City Voters Control Their Own Futures

It all starts—and will end—with America’s inner cities. 

They are the reservoir of poverty that never empties and the incubator of crimes and criminality that go unsolved and unabated. They are safe harbors for street gangs that give a penumbra of violence covering everything that happens there. Violence, and the threat of violence, destroys prosperity and deters economic development, creating employment deserts. 

Inner-cities harbor family dysfunction and broken homes. Inner-city public schools are dropout factories and the education establishment has given up on them. They are an economic basement without stairs or even a ladder going up to the next floor. Their greatest export is homelessness which carries squalor and despair to places that the rest of us see at a distance, at a highway underpass or parks we no longer frequent, as we go about our lives.

For more than half a century, with rare and notable exceptions, America’s most troubled cities have been governed by Democratic politicians—black, white, and Latino—who have paid no price for failure. 

Usually, the price of abject failure in politics is to be thrown out of office. But Republicans prefer to stick with their existing fiefdoms in faraway places with blinders to political opportunity and have shown little interest in treating the cancer within our political system.

Of course, if you are sitting in a boiling cauldron of failure for over 50 years, the simplest thing to do is to blame someone else. Which is what Democrats have done and continue to do. They have created a new theory that turns the world inside out and upside down. They have announced that their own 50 years of failure is proof that the inner-city minorities are permanent victims of a structure of oppression imposed by White America. Thus, destroy that structure, and the inner-city minorities will flourish—Nirvana will arrive. The doctrine employed is critical race theory, or CRT, and the only solution is to give total control over all society to Democrats and eliminate the Republican Party because it is both white and racist. Or as The New Republic puts it: “End the GOP: In order to save our democracy, we must not merely defeat the Republican Party.”  

Where else, except from a 50-year cauldron of failure, would anyone have the chutzpah to claim that critical major social problems can be cured by treating everyone except for those who have the problems? After all, you can’t ask the oppressed to assume obligations. Right?

So, let’s make a list of all the good things that “whites” have “wrongfully” obtained. Then take them away to provide the cure. The list includes good K-12 educations, stable two-parent families, the work ethic, safe neighborhoods in which to raise children, steady jobs, a chance to build up an investment cushion, and the list goes on. These are all the objectives in life that most whites cherish (as well as successful minorities, but we can’t mention that) and, in many cases, have achieved. Progressives claim that we must call all these attributes “privileges” which most inner-city minorities do not have. Progressives also label this situation one of white supremacy, because how else could this state of affairs have come about if whites did not oppress these minorities to get what they have?

Therefore, to implement the woke conclusion, we must take all of these “privileges” away from whites so that there will be equity between whites and inner-city minorities. Then everyone will be equal . . . and at the economic and social level of today’s inner-city minorities. 

Don’t believe me? Consider the opinion of the Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, who voted with her colleagues to slash the police budget and cut the force to 750 officers by 2022. Appearing on CNN, she said in response to the question “Do you understand that the word dismantle, or police-free, also makes some people nervous, for instance, what if, in the middle of the night, my home is broken into. Who do I call?”

Yes, I mean I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors, and myself, too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege. For those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done. 

However, this isn’t about imagination—the council voted unanimously to make the dream come true. (They’ve since had second thoughts.) So, Bender works to undermine a system she admits “is working” for a majority of her constituents so there will then be equity with inner-city minorities. It’s probably no coincidence that Bender announced in November she will not seek reelection this year. 

The term for this is “the dumbing down solution.” It ranks right up there with the woke contention that demanding a right answer in math is racist. (For your own sake, please stay off bridges designed by woke engineers.) 

The hallmark of all the progressives and their woke associates is that they only want solutions that can be implemented immediately, and defunding the police was within the immediate power of the Minneapolis City Council. As for the rest of the inner-city’s problems, the woke claim those can also be fixed immediately through a “transformation” and “revolution” which can only happen when the woke are put in charge. 

The central theme of the woke ideology is that the inner-city minorities are victims and that whites must be the only ones to pay the price for minorities to gain a meaningful life. Clearly, “victims” cannot be required to pay or contribute anything. I am using “pay” here in the broader context of adopting a work ethic, or changing their way of life by conscious effort, or treating all humans with respect. 

And because the underlying inner-city social problems are never solved by the woke programs, the sources for new outrage are never exhausted. Another twofer for the Left; another step backward for mankind, since waves of outrage are only sustained with new feeds which the woke programs foster. 

They ought to throw the current bums out of office. The 50 years of failure speaks for itself.

In effect, there are two alternatives which are diametric opposites, and the choice actually resides in the hands of the inner-city residents. Because of the peculiar balance of electoral politics at the current time, the inner city actually has the voting power to control its future. The two choices for the inner city are 1) will the inner city choose to smarten themselves up with new programs to provide a good education, better skills, and safe neighborhoods or 2) are they going to put the woke in charge to dumb everyone else down? 

Woke Progressives, with Biden in tow, have chosen to dumb down the rest of us. So, the huge questions for the next couple of election cycles are: Will the inner city buy the Biden message and continue to vote for dysfunction, or, will the Republicans wake up, find candidates who offer real educational opportunities, family support, and safe neighborhoods which will attract inner-city votes and a majority in this country? 

The Start 

It didn’t have to end this way. It certainly was not the Democrats’ choice 50 plus years ago. They began with a high-minded and determined effort to end the poverty of the inner city by smartening up. In his State of the Union address in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced the War on Poverty. He expressed its objectives as follows:

This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort . . .

Our chief weapons in a more pinpointed attack will be better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities to help more Americans, especially young Americans, escape from squalor and misery and unemployment rolls where other citizens help to carry them.

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children . . .

Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.

As is clear from this opening statement, the objective was to “cure” and “prevent” poverty; to attack the causes of poverty. This clarifies that it was not intended to subsidize the continuation of poverty ad infinitum. In other words, the War on Poverty was supposed to be a transition to self-sufficiency and full participation in the mainstream of American society for all of those capable. This was the Smarten Up War.

The original “war,” however, was lost almost from the start. Instead of a war, it became the exact opposite: it actually formulated programs the effect of which has been to pay the poor to stay poor. The stopgap has worked for 50 years, but now the charade is over. In addition, the Democrats find themselves paralyzed by 1) the instruments and institutions they have adopted over the past 50 years, like the teachers’ unions, which systematically shortchange the inner city, and 2) the critical race theory, a scapegoat ideology that now consumes them. They have no stomach for, and are unable to return to, President Johnson’s original intentions. 

The proof is in the fact that the poverty rate declined for the first five years of the war and then stalled for the next 51 years. It has fluctuated between 12.3 and 13.9 percent ever since, even as we threw more and more money at it

What happened to curing “our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities?” What happened to providing “decent communities in which to live and bring up their children?”

In one sense, the poverty line above is very misleading as a reflection of reality. It is based on the actual earnings of the poor which haven’t changed in the last 50 plus years. On the other hand, the huge welfare programs, valuing in-kind and cash transfers, have increased the actual income of “fragile” families (unwed parents) to $45,000, and for married two-parent families to $85,000 (as of 2016), which is far above the poverty line. 

The downside of these huge welfare transfers is that they stand as proof positive that we 1) have not given “our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities,” 2) have not provided “education and training,” and 3) have not provided “decent communities in which to live and bring up children,” and, worse, 4) these programs actually freeze the poverty status in place—i.e., pay the poor to stay poor. 

All the symbols of dysfunction of the inner cities still stand, just as they did in 1964.  

The road map is there. Johnson established it. The Republicans have to buy into it, sell it to inner-city voters, and then implement it. What have they got to lose? Through willful harakiri, Democrats have turned one of their electoral concrete pillars—monolithic support from minority communities—back into sand. Their “defund the police” mantra has turned the inner city into a deadly hellhole with large increases in killings and crime, their support for Antifa has destroyed what little capital investment there was in the inner cities and turned them into burnt-out hulks. Both chain stores and mom-and-pop stores are closing there because shoplifting is not prosecuted, and vandalism is destructive of the very capital investment it takes to succeed. And don’t park your car in San Francisco; cops won’t respond to auto theft in broad daylight.

Are Republicans up to the job? Looking at the traditional Republican, probably not. They have isolated themselves from even trying. 

But things began to change with Trump who grew up in the urban city, did business there, and understood its politics, something no prior Republican could say. In 2020 Trump improved on his minority voter percentage because he did what he had promised in 2016 on matters of concern to minorities. As one voter said 

He really delivered on his anti-globalization policy. Neoliberal expansion has really hurt both Mexico and the U.S., and when you have family that live there, and you can see how it’s hurt people living, their jobs, their wages, it really has increased the narco-war, and this is one of the things Trump came in saying—’hey, we’re going to tear apart these trade deals’—and then he actually did it. That was for me the first sign that he actually meant some of the things he was saying. 

As another Hispanic voter said: 

A lot of presidents make promises but they never keep them, including [former President Barack] Obama. With Trump, when he came into office he came in promising, and at first I was like, ‘oh yeah more empty promises,’ but then I started seeing the results . . . I do love that he’s pro-life and pro-God, and for me that’s very important.

Plus, the economic results were there. For the first time, under Trump, and prior to the pandemic, the lowest wage earners saw their wages rise faster than all other classes—something no other recent Democratic or Republican president can claim. 

Who, among potential Republican candidates for 2024, can say that they also know how to appeal to minority voters, and can build on Trump’s success? Only Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida. To win in 2018, defeating a black opponent whom polls suggested would win, DeSantis beat the odds because of large increases in minority voting support. Thus, he has a solid record that he can do it. 

CNN exit polls showed DeSantis won 60 percent of the white vote, down from the 64 percent Trump received in 2016, and down 9 percentage points among white women. DeSantis made up from his loss with white voters by spiking his numbers with minorities. DeSantis won 14 percent of black voters and 44 percent of Hispanic voters.

This is a drastic improvement from Trump’s results in 2016 and outgoing Gov. Rick Scott’s results in 2014. DeSantis nearly doubled Trump’s results among black voters and improved among Hispanics by 9 points.

As a result, minority voters put him over the top and elected him governor of Florida. I will go out on a solid limb and say that if DeSantis is nominated by Republicans in 2024, there is a high probability that he will win the presidency based on minority voters, dragging a reluctant Republican party behind him. 

Back to The War on Poverty 

Johnson’s War on Poverty has to be reinstated. But, first, we have to establish what the war is about. The middle and upper classes, irrespective of race and ethnicity, have the highest standard of living in the world. A standard of living is made up of physical capital and human capital which combine to produce goods and services which support that standard of living. Human capital is made up of skills, innovation, education, a work ethic, and the ability to work together for common goals. This operates in a legal framework that remains sufficiently constant over time, on which people can rely to make investments and a judicial system that fairly adjudicates disputes. 

Thus, what the war is about is giving access to this system to anyone and everyone who has the skills and commitment both to join it and share its goals irrespective of race, ethnicity, or another form of gross prejudice. 

The major hurdle in the war, however, is that the human capital required cannot be created and handed out with a certificate. It requires a family nucleus to raise well-adjusted children in a safe environment, an educational system to impart the necessary skills, and a legal framework that is consistent and fair. None of that exists in the impoverished inner city, but must be created from scratch to be successful

This is a huge and daunting task well worthy of the term “War on Poverty” and will take more than one generation of K-12 to complete. It has to start with the dysfunctional family and births out of wedlock which have risen precipitously. Second, the educational system in the inner city is best described as dropout factories where up to 50 percent of minorities may drop out of school before high school graduation. The educational establishment has no excuse for this failure Third, local gangs are made up of high school dropouts. Although gangs may make up only four to 10 percent of all dropouts, the penumbra of violence these gangs impose on the inner city affects every family, child, business, and school within their zones of control. Succeeding articles will deal with each of these failures and hurdles.

But, perhaps most disturbing, the alleged academic world of colleges and universities have contributed zero to solving these failures, but they still look in the mirror and say: “We are the answer to the world’s problems.” 

Wake up; don’t woke down.

About Peter R. Taft

Peter R. Taft is a former U.S. assistant attorney general and retired lawyer in Southern California.

Photo: Getty Images

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