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Op-ed

Peter Jensen: What’s the plan for Republican-abandoned cities? | COMMENTARY

Shannon Bream prepares for a live broadcast of Fox News Sunday with the help of hair and makeup artist Tamara Montgomery at the network's office in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, September 18, 2022. Shannon Bream is the first woman to anchor the program in its 26-year history. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

As a regular Fox News viewer, I’ve learned a few things about the coming midterm election. First, I’ve discovered pretty much everything is a “crisis” these days from the border crisis to the energy crisis to the Hunter Biden laptop crisis; that global inflation is solely the fault of Joe Biden; and that women aren’t allowed to appear in front of a camera without an extraordinary amount of eye makeup. I mention this last business mostly because I’d like to see Tucker Carlson with a bit of liner and touch of blue shadow, maybe even a little eyebrow pencil. I think it would really make his eyes pop and it would prove that Fox isn’t some good old boy frat house where female anchors are dolled up while the men merely slap on a jacket and tie. Mostly, I watch because it’s an easy way to get in touch with the Republican Party’s talking points, which range from mainstream media being bad, Donald Trump being good and Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker suffering a lot of concussions while playing football — so please pay no attention to his inconsistent statements about paying for abortions, his children or any combination of those two things.

The strength of Fox is that it’s designed for a short attention span. No subtleties allowed. You just have to listen for the catchphrase: Say “liberal,” and “media” will follow. Offer “tax-and-spend,” and Democrats won’t be far behind. “Immigrants” come with “illegal,” even when they are not. All seem perfectly legitimate if your purpose is to give GOP candidates a boost, which presumably is the point. Fox is their safe space, and I have no problem with that. It probably shouldn’t be packaged as “news” exactly but, hey, it’s a free country — at least until the next Fox-endorsed insurrection comes along.

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No, my quarrel is with a specific Republicanism so often used on Fox that I wish I owned the concession. I bet you’ve heard it a million times as well. It’s the description, “Democrat-controlled cities.” First because of the odd way Republicans like to avoid the more appropriate “Democratic” because it sounds too, well, “democratic” with a small-d. But mostly because it makes it sound like the Democratic Party invaded all of the nation’s big cities like they were Kyiv and declared martial law or something to expel all those of differing party affiliation. I must have missed that.

There’s no question that America’s largest cities (and quite a few down the list) are governed by mayors, councils, commissioners, managers or whatever who are affiliated with the Democratic Party. But it’s not like voters get much choice. They’re just the last folks standing. In Baltimore, for example, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 10-to-1 margin. A lot of elected posts draw no GOP challengers; unaffiliated candidates have a better chance. That’s not Democratic control so much as Republican abandonment. And this isn’t some new development. In 1983, for example, during the height of the Baltimore renaissance, Democratic Mayor William Donald Schaefer captured 93.7% of the general election vote. Current Mayor Brandon Scott’s 70.5% victory in 2020 looks downright anemic by comparison. Oh, there are Republican-run cities out there. Jacksonville, Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to name three. But they aren’t much different in substance, good and bad, from their peers. They generally have the same budget woes, the same substandard housing, the same underperforming schools and, yes, the same kind of violent crime.

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That’s not Democratic control so much as Republican abandonment.

America’s urban woes did not spring up overnight. Now it may seem that way from the confines of the Fox studios in Manhattan, where they pine away for the days of stop-and-frisk policing and prefer extreme gentrification over civil rights. But the longer view is that the nation’s cities have suffered from many decades of neglect, racism, cheap gasoline and bad land use policies as white people of means departed for the suburbs only to be followed by affluent people of color. That left cities with a lot of concentrated poverty, substance abuse, dysfunctional families, neglected infrastructure, high taxes and on and on. Just when you think they can be revived with new immigrants or techies or whomever, a COVID-19 comes along and clocks them again. Why live near other people who might have a virus? Why live near where you work when you can telecommute? Meanwhile there are millions of Americans who are screaming about how dangerous cities are. Where were they from the 1970s to the early 1990s when U.S. violent crime rates were far higher? Without a catch phrase, apparently.

So here’s my suggestion as a longtime Fox viewer. Everyone just needs to use the phrase, “Republican-abandoned cities,” in the place of “U.S. cities.” Use it like a mantra, over and over again. That’s how it works in Murdoch World. And eventually, everybody gets the point. That’s when maybe the U.S. starts getting serious about reviving its urban centers on a bipartisan basis with appropriate federal investment in infrastructure, public transportation, job opportunities, housing, health care, broadband service and the like. When nobody much notices party affiliation, that’s when you’ll know cities are on the right path.

Peter Jensen is an editorial writer at The Sun; he can be reached at pejensen@baltsun.com.


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