Another ‘meanie’ tweet from the President has enflamed the partisan battle of the usual lines: Republicans are racists, Democrats are not fit to govern. This time, the bomb seems to have been thrown in an attempt to shift attention away from the crisis on the border, by contrasting it with the chronic condition of Baltimore. Teams Red and Blue continue to argue past each other, while doing little to solve the problems (to their profit, with 90% incumbency rates).

The Baltimore debate is another case in point: contrasts of truth are clear and both sides of the partisan divide have legitimate points, and yet the system cannot come to the middle for a solution. This perpetuates the locked-in status quo, whose effects never reach those responsible.

Baltimore has a long history of institutional racism, innovating “red lining” (segregating) districts by race. It will surprise nobody that the most deprived neighborhoods have been “allocated” to Baltimore’s people of color. The historical role of institutional racism in Baltimore cannot be reasonably denied.

Trump has a point, though, in calling out Elijah Cummings. The man has served the worst districts in Baltimore since 1996. Common sense should dictate that he is more answerable for what happens in Baltimore than outrageous Presidential tweets. Baltimore’s decrepit state of affairs has been going back since before that, with a conspicuous dearth of outrage, from the currently tweet-incensed.

A lot has happened since the redlining. Many cities in the USA have had a complete rebirth. Clearly, there is no law that says: “once reclined, cities are doomed and irredeemable.” In the heart of institutionally racist Dixie, Atlanta booms. Raleigh-Durham emerged as leaders in the high-tech/medical research arena. We have a clear counterexample right here in New York City, where the same class of status quo politicians once hid their failure behind a theory that we are “ungovernable”. Remember movies like Escape from New York? A succession of political outsiders applied reasoned adaptations that made us one of the top cities in the world. Baltimore should see that such policy details matter.

President Trump is right to shine a spotlight on the Progressive paradox of: “we have the power, we have always had the power, we call for more power, we will not change the way we use power, yet we cannot be held accountable for the outcomes of the power we have long held, and refused to change.” Democrats have controlled Baltimore since 1967. All-important to the point: who does Baltimore fail most? People of color.

There are political systems that fail by any objective standard, yet are stable, in that the failure-makers succeed by staying forever in power. There is a political science theory that explains this: The Curley effect. The whole paper is a must-read, but in short, a politician can succeed by failure so long as the failure drives off his political opponents.

Any evolutionarily stable feedback loop, like the unchanging political landscape of Baltimore, in the face of such failure, must have an explanation in an evolutionary law.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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