Do We Have a Responsibility to Deal with the Worst Elements of Our Own Coalitions?
I said awhile back that a lot of YIMBYs seem to define YIMBYism and NIMBYism in social terms, not political or policy terms - that they define allies not by who aligns with them in a policy sense but by who fights on their side online. On Reddit and Twitter some YIMBYs responded to that by calling me a NIMBY. In other words, despite my explicit policy beliefs, they think that I’m a NIMBY because I’m not part of their cool online social circle, which is a perfect illustration of the exact point I was making about how YIMBYism actually operates in practice. If I’m a YIMBY despite my policy preferences and because I’m considered outside of the YIMBY kaffeeklatsch, that means that it isn’t about policy and is about being a cool shitposter. Which fits in perfectly with my basic complaint about how YIMBYs act online: like cool, wisecracking class clowns in backwards caps, which is funny because they’re… a little nerdy. I think YIMBYism has a lot of substantively correct views, and it also has some real blind spots. More, I think it’s situated with the broader progressive coalition in an unusual and potentially uncomfortable way - this is why I frequently point out that it’s simply a lie to say that all NIMBYs are wealthy and white - and so it’s especially important that YIMBYs engage constructively. Too often, they don’t.
What makes this particularly weird is that there’s significant overlap between YIMBYs and the “popularist” movement, a perspective within the left-of-center that argues that Democrats should run on issues where they enjoy polling advantages (like abortion and protecting entitlement programs) and avoid talking about divisive issues (like criminal justice reform and other issues that intersect with race). This is all wrapped up in a centrists-vs-leftists war in the party, which is not my interest here. What is my interest is that a movement that has a lot of members who loudly lecture others on how best to pitch their messages seem not to care what the average member of their coalition is actually saying. Matt Yglesias is both King Popularist and the Czar of YIMBYs, and yet when it comes to YIMBY questions his engagement on Twitter is typically belittling. That’s weird! YIMBYs have had a lot of recent successes, but they haven’t really seen organized resistance yet, and they inevitably will. Local control remains a popular concept, at least in theory, and winning desperately-needed zoning and regulatory reform will take intelligent political messaging.