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Right after the election, I reached out to my chief critic and sparring partner Joel Kotkin, a fellow at Chapman University, to co-author an op-ed for the Daily Beast on the need for devolution and local empowerment. Kotkin has been writing about the need for increased localism as a counterbalance to what he calls the top-down “neo-feudalism” of the progressive agenda, while I come from the more progressive camp. Still, we agree that devolution and local empowerment hold the key to overcoming our political divides, respecting the very real differences between urban, suburban and rural areas, and enabling local communities and local leaders to address their opportunities and challenges on their own, unconstrained by federal interference. The fact that erstwhile enemies like Kotkin and I were able to come together on this issue and become genuine colleagues, collaborators and friends signals that this is an area where real bipartisan consensus is possible.
By lowering the stakes at the national level, devolution is perhaps the only conceivable way Red and Blue America can respect one another’s differences and coexist. Want lower taxes? Fine, but you’ll have to live with fewer services too, because blue cities will no longer subsidize you. Don’t like Obamacare? Fine, you don’t have to take it. But the uninsured that live in your red states will know who is to blame for their plight. Don’t like transgender people having the right to use the bathroom of their choosing? Fine, make your red cities and towns bastions of transphobism—but don’t impose your intolerance on the rest of us. We can agree to disagree, as long as both sides are willing to live with the consequences. Liberal cities will keep their tax dollars at home and spend them as they see fit.