The change in priorities is most striking on that bellwether of the hard-left, the Madison City Council.
It used to be that the First Commandment was to honor thy neighborhood. Neighborhoods — often led by just a few highly motivated and opinionated activists — were all powerful. Alders were loathe to oppose anything their neighborhood association wanted, or more to the point usually, to support anything they opposed.
But that has changed, and quickly. Now, the primary passion of the hard-left is identity, specifically race and “equity,” a fuzzy term that essentially means doing everything possible, including discrimination against the “oppressor” groups, to reverse past discrimination, mostly against Black people.
The hard-left expresses that passion in a lot of awful ways, but one good outcome is to embrace the free market (of all things!) when it comes to housing. Madison has long had a problem with affordable housing, borne of the fact that it’s a damn nice place to live, but also caused to some extent by over-regulation and that aforementioned homage paid to neighborhoods, which generally like things just as they are, thank you very much.
So, last year the council made it much easier for relatively small apartment developments to be approved by city staff without having to go through the laborious council approval process. And now there’s a proposal to eliminate an age-old law that allows 20% of adjoining owners to a property seeking a zoning change to demand a three-quarters vote of the council for approval.
That provision has been invoked only a dozen times in the last decade or so and it has never actually stopped a project, but this is still a step in the right direction. It’s part of an overall change in philosophy on the council that affordable housing in more neighborhoods (and specifically, housing that can be afforded by more people of color) is the top city priority, displacing neighborhood (“privileged” neighborhoods, council members would say) control.
So, in my view, the council is using a fundamentally bad concept (“equity”) to use a fundamentally good thing (the free market) to get at a real problem (lack of affordable housing) and to achieve a desirable end (neighborhood integration).
We here at YSDA are, generally speaking, staunch opponents of all that is woke. But here’s a case where woke works some good.
Want to read more curiously conservative views from a liberal? Pick up a copy of Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority.