Challenges to Democracy: National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama

By Hilary Silver
Challenges to Democracy

Urban Policy in the Time of Obama (James DeFilippis, editor)Barack Obama should have been America’s first urban president. As a candidate and then president-elect, he gave every indication that he would be. But he entered office during the worst downturn since the Great Depression and soon confronted a hostile Republican congressional opposition prepared to go to the mattresses to prevent new spending. If Obama had any big plans for new urban initiatives, they were quickly diminished. Yet he did have a beneficial impact on American cities, as I will show, primarily as a by-product of nonurban federal pro- grams, stimulus expenditures, and organizational efficiencies that required no new dedicated allocations. In his second term, after a wave of racial disturbances, he also benefited from a fortuitous Supreme Court decision on fair housing. Whether Obama’s accomplishments add up to a national urban policy, therefore, is a matter of how one conceives of such a policy.

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