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Just Say Yes to Awkward Political Alliances

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Issues around zoning and building are more DJW’s department than mine, but I wanted to note this interesting article about the burgeoning, if super awkward, alliance between left YIMBYs and right-wing think tank types who think that people should be able to divide up their property and build whatever they want. I can’t evaluate how serious this movement, but I will say that the article does a good job of getting at the point that it has largely been liberal ideals of community involvement with government that has gotten in the way of creating the modern urban density we so desperately need. And of course, no one is more NIMBY than an upper-middle class Democratic homeowner who worries that the shadows put up by that 4 story apartment building that could be constructed next door might lower my property values. So it gets weird and the comments on these issues get weird in the comments here too.

What I will say though is this: we live in a political culture where we expect the good people to hold all of our political values and the bad people to hold none of them. That pretty much transcends political position, so what is good or bad depends on the individual. But as a whole, this holds. So when you have a situation like this, when people who agree on basically nothing have reason to come together over an issue, it leads to a lot of discomfort. I get that. But this is also politics. Political success has so often meant working with people on a given issue that you find some common ground on. The superb Congresswoman from Seattle, Pramila Jayapal, gets at this in her memoir, which you should all read. She always is looking for some way to find an issue to work on with people who basically hate her politics. It’s a smart way to approach the issue, because you also build personal relationships that can work wonders down the road. Too often today, I think that approach is looked down upon as selling out or whatever. I don’t think that’s healthy for our politics, in part because it empowers the loudest voices to demand fealty on every issue.

In short, make the alliance and take the win. Who knows, maybe you will have conversations with these Koch-funded folks and something useful will come out of it on working together for some other issue where there might be some room for allyship, such as drug decriminalization, to throw an idea out there.

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