In my opinion, the city has basic management problems, but also has considerable strengths and social capital; Mortality from Covid-19 was low in part because people wore masks and treated each other.
So what lessons are there for the country?
A wing of the Democratic Party, encompassing President Biden but also politicians to his left like Elizabeth Warren, is focusing on practical measures to improve people’s lives: vaccinations, broadband, highways, family allowances, child care. Another wing of the party emphasizes identity politics and grand theatrical gestures to right historic wrongs and push for a more just society.
It’s more complicated than that, of course, and many progressives, including myself, believe in both broadband and righting historic wrongs. But some awakened movements, like Dr. Seuss’ editor pulling some of his books, seem silly and others just seem out of touch with the complexities on the ground.
Seattle leftists set up a six-block “Police-Free Zone” last summer to protect the public from police violence. Six people were then shot dead in the area within 10 days, simply confirming the value of a police presence.
In San Francisco, the Board of Education became a laughing stock when it voted to rename 44 school buildings, including those named after Lincoln and Washington. This month, the council overturned its decision after parents protested that the council should focus on accommodating children in these buildings.
Someone asked me if it was true that in New York you could be fined $ 250,000 for calling someone an “illegal alien”. It’s absurd, I replied, just more right-wing propaganda. Then I checked and, yes, it turns out that labeling someone an “illegal alien”, with the intent to demean, can be punishable by a fine of up to $ 250,000. Is it really the best way to improve someone’s life?
As I contemplate the democratic goals and toolboxes of this tainted but still lovely city of Portland, I come to two conclusions.