In my lifetime (I was born in 1950), the Democrats have had an extraordinary opportunity to run some of America's largest cities and apply their brand of liberal policies to the social and economic problems that have plagued them. Look at the history in just eight of these cities, according to Wikipedia.org:
Baltimore, since 1947 has had a single Republican mayor and 10 Democratic mayors; For 64 of those 68 years, the city has been run by Democrats. Detroit has had eight Democratic Mayors and no Republicans since 1962 — 53 years. Chicago has had 10 Democrats and no Republicans in 84 years. Philadelphia has had nine Democrats and no Republicans in 63 years St. Louis, similarly has had nine Democratic mayors and no Republicans in 64 years; Boston has had 12 Democrats and no Republicans in 85 years; Los Angeles has had five Democrats and a single Republican in the 54 years. New York, has had 15 different mayors since 1917, nine of whom were Democrats.
Each of these cities is among the largest in America and arguably has some of the worst metrics. Three of the eight are leading cities for murders; four have the highest crime rates, four have managed to make the Forbes "Most Miserable Cities" list, and at least two are at economic risk. While millions of taxpayer dollars remind us that Baltimore has great crabs, Chicago has terrific pizza, and Philly offers great cheesesteaks, these cities, and scores of similarly imperiled cities across the country, have made virtually no progress in establishing their towns as safe, enlightened, attractive places to live. By any measure, Democratic leadership has failed these cities for most of the last century. I would suggest it might be time to give the Republicans a chance.
It is worth noting that each of these cities has large — and largely poor — black communities. Many African Americans, sold on the concept that the Democrats represent the little guy, have consistently helped get these Democrats elected. I would ask the black voters of these cities to seriously question whether they believe their lives have been materially improved since their grandparents lived there. Despite a half century of promises, it takes little reflection to agree that life in urban black communities has improved only marginally, if at all. While Democrats are fast to point out the problems are the result of "the drug war" or the "unbridled capitalism" of white-owned businesses who took jobs away, you will never hear them look inward and consider that perhaps their leadership and well-meaning but poorly advised liberal social agendas are to blame for much of the misery in poor urban communities. It is time such communities look to new ways of thinking about urban management. If something doesn't work after 50 years of trying the same things over and over, well, it might be time for a change.
It is difficult not to extrapolate the experience in our cities to the national stage. It is said that the GOP offers rotten politicians with excellent ideas while the Democrats give us excellent politicians with horrendous ideas. I am reminded of this comparison as I look at the legacy of the last seven-plus years that President Barack Obama leaves us with, or as I listen to the tired old finger pointing of the Saul Alinsky-aligned left represented by Hillary Clinton or the self-assured "new" progressives like Martin O'Malley (one of the aforementioned former Democratic mayors of Baltimore). Perhaps Ronald Reagan was the last decent politician the Republicans could muster, but I hope the last few elections, and the decided turn we have seen away from Democrats who believe they can legislate morality, is the beginning of a new era of enlightened voting that considers the track record of elected officials in a practical way.
We truly do get the government we deserve, and we must learn to vote for substance instead of smooth talkers who promise great things and perennially fail.
Richard Franz is a retired Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. portfolio manager and vice president of investments; his email is email@example.com.