The Nextdoor Presidency

When the left, construed very broadly, fails at governance (which isn’t the same as legislating), it creates room for very bad actors to offer superficial solutions which lead to very bad things. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

By ‘Nextdoor’ Presidency, I don’t mean that the president lives next door, I’m referring to the Next Door app, which is a ‘hyper-local’ social media platform that focuses on very local problems and issues. If you’ve ever been on the site, there is a constant undercurrent of bigotry that occasionally erupts into rampant stupidity. There’s ugly anti-homeless sentiment too (as best as I can tell, every city has people who accuse homeless people of coming from ‘somewhere else.’ If they’re all coming from somewhere else, where is that place? But I digress again).

So when I call Il Trumpe the Nextdoor President, it’s in that sense. For example (boldface mine):

As The Washington Post has reported during the past week, though, Trump’s administration has quietly been planning a crackdown on homeless camps in California, including visiting unused government facilities to determine if they could serve as housing…

“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” Trump said, according to a report from the White House news pool. “And I’m speaking to tenants — in some cases foreign people, foreign tenants — but they have where they’re tenants in buildings throughout various cities in California, and other places … where they want to leave the country. They can’t believe what’s happening.”

He mentioned police getting sick of addressing homelessness problems, then returning to those tenants.

We have people living in our … best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings and pay tremendous taxes, where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige,” he said. “In many cases, they came from other countries, and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents. Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave.

“And the people of San Francisco are fed up, and the people of Los Angeles are fed up,” he added. “And we’re looking at it, and we’ll be doing something about it.”

…His answer on Tuesday makes a lot more sense. The focus of his concern, as presented to reporters on Air Force One, wasn’t Americans or veterans, but foreigners who rent or buy high-end real estate, people who get frustrated at seeing those experiencing homelessness at the entrance to their office buildings. It’s the sort of complaint that might resonate with someone who owns real estate in major U.S. cities that is used for housing or office space.

Trump is well aware of how people experiencing homelessness can make a property less appealing. As CNN reported during the campaign, Trump once proposed housing people who are homeless in one of his buildings — in an apparent effort to oust rent-controlled tenants from the property.

It’s remarkable, though, that Trump went as far as to frame this as a concern for foreign tenants. Foreign investors are central to much of the high-end real estate market, prompting Donald Trump Jr. in 2008 to remark that “[i]n terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” But even if that is a central concern of Trump’s in this case, it seems odd to mention it explicitly. To the rally crowd, concern for the veterans. To reporters, it’s apparently about tax bases and appealing to the foreign market.

Of course he views this as a real estate problem. But this political opening occurs only when governance fails–and a fair amount of that failure can be laid at the feet of nominal Democrats:

Yet like many problems Trump raises, he’s not wrong to say its a failure, even if his solutions are monstrous and his motivations vile. Homelessness is a massive failure of governance, especially at state and local levels. In many places, one could blame divided government: the state government, controlled by Republicans, might be starving municipalities for funds. But California* is nominally controlled top to bottom by Democrats and has been for a while (arguably, the two-thirds majority required for tax increases limited Democratic initiatives for a long time, but important subtleties like that will get lost in the political weeds). Yet the state and its cities have failed on the whole. It’s very difficult to build market-rate housing in most Californian cities. It’s even harder to build a homeless shelter (got NIMBY?).

This is another manifestation of the crisis in governance in the U.S.

Democrats, and not just the ones operating at the national level, need to learn that, if they don’t solve (or at least significantly reduce) problems, Republicans–usually the worst of the lot–will propose solutions that will be awful in so many ways. Democrats, especially at the state and local levels, needed to be much more effective when it came to urban housing, but, instead, treated homelessness as ‘normal.’ The trouble with normal is that it always gets worse.

Democrats need to win elections. But they also need to start governing well.

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