To the Editor:
Former Democrat councilman and local party chairman Lonnie Rich asks: “how the Republicans have become the anti-development party?” So, here’s the answer:
As the Republican Party became more conservative, moderate Republicans like former Councilman David Speck, who supported the waterfront plan, switched parties. These moderates are typically “pro-business” and business, as the local chamber of commerce’s support for the waterfront plan shows, is pro-development. Anti-abortion, anti-bailout, anti-immigration positions dominant in today’s Republican Party are anti-business positions.
In order to attract moderate Republicans, the Democrat Party sidelined its traditional core constituencies, such as labor unions and the poor. These constituencies still support the “lesser evil” Democrats which give them mere crumbs like health care reform written by the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. The public money the Democrats don’t spend on these constituencies, such as city workers’ six years without a pay raise, they devote to development which wins over moderate, pro-business Republicans for whom piles of government-supplied cash to support infrastructure and generous zoning waivers trump traditional “free market” Republicanism where the rules are the same for everybody.
But most importantly, population density causes more people to perceive a greater need for government regulation. You don’t need, for example, a noise ordinance where the houses are a quarter mile apart. Densely developed cities are reliably Democrat; sparsely populated rural areas are reliably Republican. Apartment buildings are Democrat, suburban single-family tract houses are Republican. Arlington County can’t elect a Republican because it is so densely developed; Alexandria still can because it isn’t. Former U.S. Rep Tom Davis put it succinctly in criticizing an early attempt at dense development near a metro stop — “It just breeds Democrats!”