Defending the Suburbs–and Golf–From the U.N.

In her New York Times column yesterday, Gail Collins took notice of the little-known fact that Texas GOP Senate nominee Ted Cruz isn’t just any old “constitutional conservative:” he’s an Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist:

In a blog posting early this year, Cruz vowed that as senator he would fight against “a dangerous United Nations plan” on environmental sustainability that he said was aimed at abolishing “golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads.” He blamed all this on the Democratic financier-philanthropist George Soros.

This is presumably a reference to an item on Cruz’s campaign web page that screeches about Agenda 21 as an effort to “leave mother earth’s surface unscratched by mankind.”

I’ve written about the John Birch Society-driven Agenda 21 hysteria and noted it had popped up in GOP primary campaigns in Georgia and in the Alabama legislature. But now it seems it is likely to enter the United States Senate, too.

This stuff not only represents the mainstreaming of JBS-style UN-bashing, but also the growing demonization on the Right of that most boring but essential feature of municipal and county governance in most parts of the country: regional planning. The previously noncontroversial idea that local governments, particularly in metropolitan areas crossing many jurisdictional lines, needed to get together to ensure that their infrastructure investments, development policies, and demographic expectations were roughly on the same page, is now being regularly described as an assault on private property rights, and yea, even on golf. And what are essentially voluntary planning practices that maintain the ability of individual communities to exert some influence on the development plans of their neighbors, and to influence state and even federal policies together, are under attack as a nightmarish socialist assault on the good god-fearing people of the suburbs.

Think I’m exaggerating? Check out a brief sample from a long rant (and actually a book excerpt) from Stanley Kurtz at National Review that claims there is a Alinskyite cabal in the White House plotting to loot suburbanites on behalf of Obama’s urban looter friends and abolish suburbs altogether:

Obama is a longtime supporter of “regionalism,” the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation. To this end, the president has already put programs in place designed to push the country toward a sweeping social transformation in a possible second term. The goal: income equalization via a massive redistribution of suburban tax money to the cities.

Believe me, the piece gets crazier and crazier as you go along. And while Kurtz and people like him claim to be defending suburbanites from the socialist predators of the cities, it’s hard to imagine anyone benefitting from their hard-core opposition to any kind of regional planning, land-use regulation, or inter-jurisdictional cooperation other than developers and land speculators. It’s a pretty classic example of the worst kind of greed being promoted via appeals to–no question about it–racial fears and hatred of taxes. But it’s gaining amazing steam in Tea circles around the country, and before very long, it may be hard to find the kind of Republican elected officials who used to quietly sit on regional planning bodies and try to make their communities a bit more–yes–“sustainable.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.