Brad Littlejohn: Back to governing | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Brad Littlejohn: Back to governing


WORLD Radio - Brad Littlejohn: Back to governing

Successful politics begins with the basics

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs Associated Press/Photo by Matt York, File

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, July 9th, 2024. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next, WORLD commentator Brad Littlejohn on the need for politicians to return to good governance.

BRAD LITTLEJOHN: The cover story for this summer’s issue of The Atlantic carries an apocalyptic title suited to the age of clickbait: “What will become of American civilization?” The article itself is more contemplative, an eloquent 25,000-word case study of Phoenix, Arizona, and how that city’s trials and triumphs reflect the crises of contemporary American politics. One line sums up the problem: “When Kari Lake ran for governor in 2022, everyone knew her position on transgenderism and no one knew her position on water, because she barely had one.”

Throughout the article, author George Packer laments over how the politics of culture-warring has crowded out the politics of everyday life, so polarizing and poisoning the debates that no one has the time or the will to tackle crucial issues of basic sustainability and infrastructure. Although Packer is wrong to dismiss worries about transing teens as a distraction from serious policy, he nonetheless offers a timely warning for would-be conservative leaders: Don’t forget to govern.

In recent years, conservatives have happily remembered that politics is about morality and virtue, not just economics and national security. Living well, which is to do so virtuously, is the proper goal of human life. However, to live well, it is necessary first to live. Thus, any successful politics must begin with the basics of food and water, health and shelter. Although “sustainability” is a word commonly used by the left, it is a prerequisite of any civilization. And increasingly, it is at risk of becoming a casualty of the culture wars.

Two of America’s top culture-war battlegrounds and fastest-growing states, Arizona and Florida, are a case in point. One is forever plagued by too little water and the other by too much, as extreme drought dries up the Colorado River Basin and rising sea levels create chronic flooding in Miami. And yet, fueled by the availability of cheap air conditioning after 1970, both states have witnessed relentless, thinly regulated growth, as mile after mile of desert in Arizona and mile after mile of wetlands in Florida have been devoured by housing developments. For years, conservationist groups were among the few that raised alarms, but increasingly today, ordinary citizens are struggling to deal with the ramifications.

In Florida, the home insurance industry is in crisis, with rates tripling in the past few years, while numerous insurance companies have gone bankrupt or abandoned the state. The causes are numerous, but the leading culprit is clear: too many houses built too close to the coastline in Hurricane Alley. In Arizona, wells are running dry in outer suburbs of Phoenix as corporate megafarms suck aquifers dry, and a growing homeless population faces unprecedented risks in 110-degree heat.

While the battles over abortions, race, and transgenderism may dominate headlines, most Americans are more likely to worry about more mundane problems. Gallup’s recent “Most Important Problem” poll showed that the No. 1 frustration for Americans was quite simply “poor leadership” by their governments, followed closely by immigration and “the economy in general.” For most people, that has less to do with GDP statistics and more to do with their everyday struggles of trying to pay for utilities and insurance.

Such brass-tacks issues offer a golden opportunity for conservatives. As progressives have abdicated some of the basic tasks of governing many Americans have voted with their feet, fueling the population rises in places like Arizona and Florida. If red state governors can demonstrate a commitment to solving everyday problems like water and housing, they can earn the trust of voters and a mandate to enact lasting cultural reforms.

I’m Brad Littlejohn.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...