Racism Didn't Win In America's Cities

With the defeat of New York Mayor David Dinkins, the five largest cities in the U.S. will be governed by white chief executives. Just a few years ago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York were all led by black mayors. Yet it would be too easy to dismiss Republican Rudolph Giuliani's New York victory as simply a referendum on racial polarization.

Simply put, our cities don't work. They are riddled with crime, corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, and senseless barriers to business expansion. Schools don't teach, roads are falling apart, drugs and violence are pandemic, and an army of "ment-chems"--mentally ill, chemically addicted people--panhandle aggressively on street corners, creating a threatening atmosphere in our public space, especially for women, children, and the elderly.

Not surprisingly, voters want a change. Urban dwellers, black and white alike, are looking for candidates who will come up with imaginative solutions without new bureaucracies or onerous tax hikes. African Americans won mayoral contests this year across the country, but in those campaigns, the fight for a liberal agenda gave way, in large part, to new imperatives--jobs and safety. The result is a new generation of black mayors who sound more like Clinton New Democrats than Jesse Jackson liberals. In Detroit and Cleveland, voters on Nov. 2 chose black mayors who stressed jobs, education, and crime prevention.

The truth is that policy, more than race, determined this year's big-city elections. And that is as it should be.

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