Detroit represents nothing less than progressivism in its final stage of decadence: Worried that unionized public-sector workers are looting your city? Detroit is already bankrupt, unable to provide basic services expected of it — half the streetlights don’t work, transit has been reduced, neighborhoods go unpatrolled. Worried that public-sector unions are ruining your schools? Detroit’s were ruined a generation or more ago, the results of which are everywhere to be seen in the city. Worried that Obamacare is going to ruin our health-care markets? General-practice physicians are hard to find in Detroit, and those willing to accept Medicaid — which covers a great swath of Detroit’s population — are rarer still. Worried about the permissive culture? Four out of five of Detroit’s children are born out of wedlock. Worried that government is making it difficult for businesses to thrive? Many people in Detroit have to travel miles to find a grocery store. This is the endgame of welfare economics: What good is Medicaid if there are no doctors? What good are food stamps where there is no food? What good are “free” schools if you’re so afraid to send your children there that you feel it prudent to arm them first?
Detroit is what Democrats do. The last Republican elected mayor of Detroit took office during the Eisenhower administration. The decay of Detroit is not the inevitable outcome of the decline of the automotive industry: The automotive industry is thriving in the United States — but not in Detroit. It isn’t white flight: The black middle class has left Detroit as fast as it can. The model of Detroit politics is startlingly familiar in its fundamentals, distinguished only by its degree of advancement: Advance the interests of public-sector unions and politically connected business cronies, expand the relative size of the public sector remorselessly — and when opposed, cry “Racism!” When people vote with their feet, cry “Racism!” When the budget just won’t balance, cry “Racism!” Never mind that the current mayor of Detroit is the first non–African American to hold that job since the 1970s, or that, as one Detroit News columnist put it, “black nationalism . . . is now the dominant ideology of the [city] council” — somewhere, there must be a somebody else to blame, preferably: aged, portly, white, male, and Republican. No less a fool than Ed Schultz blamed the straits of this exemplar of Democratic single-party rule on “a lot of Republican policies.”