When I started my "urban right" series, I wanted to get at what I think conservatives get right, but also what they get wrong on issues affecting our central cities.
What we get right tends to be criticism. We know that the paradigm that many of us grew up with, i.e., that the principal foe (ofay?) is from above, is wrong. We know that the notions that the main culprits are currently extant racism and the insufficiency of government intervention are misguided and that to continue to give them pride of place is destructive.
But how often do we offer more than that? Two stories.
A few months ago, I was down in Arizona, chatting with a friend who is a fairly senior person at a rather large and well funded conservative organization. Were I to name it, my liberal readers would cross themselves and reach for their garlic necklaces. We were talking about the potential for common cause between social conservatives and African-American pastors. He was cautiously optimistic but noted that the ministers he speaks to want some indication that we care about the daily travails of the communities they serve. He believed that it is incumbent upon us - both politically and morally - to take their concerns to heart.
Last night, as I drove home, Eric Von had an impressive young lady on his show. She's a black teenager in Milwaukee (a freshman at King) involved in organizing a youth march to "take back" the streets of Milwaukee. She said that she was 15 years old and afraid to walk down the street. As the adult helping to organize the march said, she was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
As I listened to this, it occurred to me that, although there is a limit to what can be accomplished by this type of symbolism, there is potential power in a public demonstration of courage and resolve. Would it even occur to local conservatives - particularly those with the ability to help - to support such an effort? Would it even occur to the folks organizing such efforts to ask?
We are, I think, right in the belief that our state and local governments do not need to take more of our money. But there may be areas of urban policy where its simply not pragmatic to rule out a major role for government.
If we like "broken windows" policing, then there need to be sufficient resources to accomplish this in a way that doesn't set the community and law enforcement at loggerheads. If we like school choice, we need to make sure that it is adequately funded and that parents are protected from fly-by-night storefront schools. We want Messmer. We don't want Acme High School.
If we believe in opportunity, then welfare as we now know it should be limited, conditioned - and generous.
We believe in law and order. We have little sympathy for people who commit violent crimes. But we need to be willing to think about the impact of our twenty year experiment in more aggressive law enforcement of the drug laws on the community. Have we curbed drug use or have we just thrown more people in jail?
We ought to criticize MPS, but public schools are not - and should not - go away. There is plenty wrong with the system but it is not an irredeemable "rat trap." We may have been right on the flexicuffs, but we lack credibility when it is only things like flexicuffs that get our attention.
I think that there is more of this type of thought happening on the right than the left gives us credit for. If any one decides to "monitor" Sykes and McBride, they will hear some of it from them. .
But, too often, we limit ourselves to outrage. Sometimes that's a necessary first step. Our challenge is to make sure that we do not stop there.