Assessments

The Reality of Living in Anytown, USA

A long time ago, on a train rumbling through rural France, a local asked me where I was from. I told him. His face lit up. “Chicago!” he exclaimed. “Bang bang, eh!”

“That’s right,” I said. “Bang bang.” READ MORE

Why Affordable Housing Is Hard to Build

In just about every political constituency in the country, there are things you can’t say and expect to get elected. You can’t endorse gun control in Tennessee. You can’t make light of climate change in Seattle. In Arlington, Va., where I live, you have to watch what you say about affordable housing.

To question the suburban county’s ambitious subsidized housing goals is to risk alienating what is perhaps the most vocal lobby in town. I know that the citizens of Arlington who advocate for expanded housing opportunity don’t think of themselves as power brokers. They don’t put big sums of money into campaigns. They’re almost always quiet and polite. But they are in possession of a sacred cow, and they know how to milk it. READ MORE

The Establishment? It’s Long Gone.

The 2016 presidential campaign has defied expectations at almost every turn, but it has produced one seemingly immutable fact: The Establishment is a spent force.

Lurking behind this simple truth, however, is a whole collection of puzzles. Is the death of the Establishment mostly an event in presidential politics, or does it apply to the entire American political system? Or is it a broader event with deep roots in society at large? READ MORE

The Shaky Edifice of Federal Power

Just seven years ago, scholars of American government were talking about a resurgence of federal power and initiative in the country’s political system. Barack Obama had taken office with lots of ideas for how to use Washington’s leverage to redirect public policy at every level of the system.

Not only were the Affordable Care Act and a massive financial regulation bill working their way to enactment, but Congress had approved an $831 billion economic stimulus package that was far more than an effort to revive the economy: It was a blueprint for the implementation through federal law of longstanding Democratic priorities in renewable energy, public transportation, subsidized housing, medical research and dozens of other categories that would take pages just to describe. It seemed that a political system balanced uneasily between national and state priorities was about to take a huge turn in a national direction. READ MORE

The Saga of an Inner Suburb's Struggle for an Identity

This is a season of optimism in Columbia Heights, a compact suburb of 20,000 people on the northern edge of Minneapolis. 

The Heights Theater, a retro 1920s moviehouse on Central Avenue, the town’s main street, draws customers from all over the Twin Cities with its combination of classic cinema and live organ music. In a few months, right next to the theater, Columbia Heights will open a sparkling new town library, built in part out of brick meant to complement the theater’s appearance. READ MORE