When it comes to the education battles, we recently published a paper on high schools in New York City, and what we found is that these high schools that were established after 1994 — starting under the Giuliani administration, but really under the Bloomberg administration — have just done way, way better in terms of actually getting students to graduate and also imparting the kind of skills that young people need to flourish than incumbent schools.
The de Blasio administration kind of stopped going down that road and creating new schools. That matters so much more than whether Bronx Science has this or that racial composition. And, to me, that’s the whole problem: You have this kind of urban progressivism that is so narrowly fixated on selective institutions and the concerns of affluent, credentialed, educated people.. They’re so narrowly fixated on their own experiences and what that means, rather than on what does it mean to broaden access and opportunity for a much, much larger group of people who, by the way, don’t necessarily aspire to the exact same things as the people who are on the faculty at Yale Law School.
Do you think this platform can compete with Trumpism?
Trumpism is exceedingly hard to define. Donald Trump’s presidency gave any number of different factions on the right little hints that they could claim him. Immigration restrictionists claim him, but there were always these signs that he wanted to increase the number of guest workers, or when he said in a State of the Union address that “I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever.” Trump contained multitudes. The simplest definition of Trumpism is that it’s all about personal loyalty to the former president rather than a fixed body of ideas.
But there is definitely a contest for the future of the center right. My sense is that there’s an emerging right-of-center politics that is deeply pessimistic about the prospect of a diversifying America, explicitly anti-urban, and increasingly willing to embrace redistribution and centralized power than the movement conservatism of the pre-Trump era.
Then there’s what many of our scholars are advancing: a more practical, results-oriented approach that focuses on core quality-of-life questions; a belief in the potential of urban life; an unapologetic defense of educational excellence and public order; a healthy skepticism toward centralized power; and an opposition to race essentialism that’s rooted in the realities of living in a culturally dynamic, pluralistic and individualistic society. I suspect this sensibility speaks to more Americans, and especially to more young people, than what I take to be the alternative.
Both tendencies are about breaking the country out of economic and cultural stagnation, and both have an anti-elitist streak. But our vision is just not as bleak, pessimistic and enervating, and that’s why I’m confident it can compete and win.
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Jay Caspian Kang (@jaycaspiankang), a writer for Opinion and The New York Times Magazine, is the author of “The Loneliest Americans.”