Smart Ideas: Anthony Williams Says Democratic Hegemony Hurts Big Cities

Former District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Oct. 16, 2017, 8 p.m.

Big cities need a multiplicity of party options

Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, writing for CityLab

Local governments touch lives more than national government, but city political systems are failing. One reason why: one-party rule, which doesn’t represent competing interests in city politics. Cities need parties “that reflect the diversity of city life.” Democrats hold most urban seats, but some cities could use “Republican-inspired solutions.” At about 25 percent nationally, turnout in city elections is low “and has been trending down for decades.” That “means incumbents keep winning” and representation is lopsided. “One easy fix is moving municipal elections to the same day as national elections.” Another could be getting rid of nonpartisan elections and putting more information about candidates on the ballot. In the long term, cities could “open up space for multiple parties.”

Beware Iranian cyber-warfare

Lily Hay Newman, writing for Wired

Even if the Iran deal falls apart, the country’s nuclear ambitions are years away. However, increased tension between Iran and the U.S. could “lead to increased Iranian cyber operations.” Though “current diplomatic instability” probably won’t impact hacks, “future decisions—particularly around sanctions—could fuel offensive plans.” Years ago, “Iranian hackers were very active” in targeting the U.S. and Europe. The “initiatives haven’t completely abated,” but Iran has seemingly shifted to Middle Eastern targets instead. The nuclear agreement may not have caused the shift, but Congress should consider the threat while it debates imposing sanctions. Recently, Iranian hackers have already breached aerospace, defense, and petrochemical companies. “Stopping Iranian nuclear proliferation is important,” but “provoking Iran now could have ramifications in a number of spheres in the future.”

The perils of the 25th Amendment option

Brian Kalt, writing for New York Magazine

Using Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which permits the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to at least temporarily remove the president from office, could end up being a dangerous path. Section 4 is extremely vague on defining “inability” to perform the duties of office: “Being unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office seemingly requires actual incapacity, not just misusing power for foolish or destructive ends. … ‘Inability’ is only what the vice-president, a majority of the Cabinet, and two-thirds of the House and Senate say it is. That sets the bar very high.” President Trump, however, “is lucid, able to fire people, and capable of rallying his supporters on Twitter,” and “can preemptively fire Cabinet members he suspects of plotting against him.” Whether acting secretaries can participate in a 25th Amendment vote is constitutionally vague, meaning Trump can potentially head this off at the pass. Either way, the “whole process would be wrenching and horribly disruptive.”

Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue during a meeting of President Trump's Cabinet on June 12. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

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