Political Animal


August 02, 2012 4:45 PM Defending the Suburbs—and Golf—From the U.N.

By Ed Kilgore

In her New York Times column yesterday, Gail Collins took notice of the little-known fact that Texas GOP Senate nominee Ted Cruz isn’t just any old “constitutional conservative:” he’s an Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist:

In a blog posting early this year, Cruz vowed that as senator he would fight against “a dangerous United Nations plan” on environmental sustainability that he said was aimed at abolishing “golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads.” He blamed all this on the Democratic financier-philanthropist George Soros.

This is presumably a reference to an item on Cruz’s campaign web page that screeches about Agenda 21 as an effort to “leave mother earth’s surface unscratched by mankind.”

I’ve written about the John Birch Society-driven Agenda 21 hysteria and noted it had popped up in GOP primary campaigns in Georgia and in the Alabama legislature. But now it seems it is likely to enter the United States Senate, too.

This stuff not only represents the mainstreaming of JBS-style UN-bashing, but also the growing demonization on the Right of that most boring but essential feature of municipal and county governance in most parts of the country: regional planning. The previously noncontroversial idea that local governments, particularly in metropolitan areas crossing many jurisdictional lines, needed to get together to ensure that their infrastructure investments, development policies, and demographic expectations were roughly on the same page, is now being regularly described as an assault on private property rights, and yea, even on golf. And what are essentially voluntary planning practices that maintain the ability of individual communities to exert some influence on the development plans of their neighbors, and to influence state and even federal policies together, are under attack as a nightmarish socialist assault on the good god-fearing people of the suburbs.

Think I’m exaggerating? Check out a brief sample from a long rant (and actually a book excerpt) from Stanley Kurtz at National Review that claims there is a Alinskyite cabal in the White House plotting to loot suburbanites on behalf of Obama’s urban looter friends and abolish suburbs altogether:

Obama is a longtime supporter of “regionalism,” the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation. To this end, the president has already put programs in place designed to push the country toward a sweeping social transformation in a possible second term. The goal: income equalization via a massive redistribution of suburban tax money to the cities.

Believe me, the piece gets crazier and crazier as you go along. And while Kurtz and people like him claim to be defending suburbanites from the socialist predators of the cities, it’s hard to imagine anyone benefitting from their hard-core opposition to any kind of regional planning, land-use regulation, or inter-jurisdictional cooperation other than developers and land speculators. It’s a pretty classic example of the worst kind of greed being promoted via appeals to—no question about it—racial fears and hatred of taxes. But it’s gaining amazing steam in Tea circles around the country, and before very long, it may be hard to find the kind of Republican elected officials who used to quietly sit on regional planning bodies and try to make their communities a bit more—yes—“sustainable.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Hedda Peraz on August 02, 2012 5:03 PM:

    We have gotten so much mileage out of "Agenda 21" in fund raising letters, it has passed Black Helicopters, The Illuminati, and One World Government combined!

  • Extreme Moderate on August 02, 2012 5:10 PM:

    Ed, I've been following a lot of posts on the Tea Party and I'll agree that it's alarming for sure. The nation needs a functional Republican Party if we're going to work as a democracy. What strikes me after reading your post is three things: 1) as one of my college professors said : nothing is a linear trend. So to my mind, the key question in looking at the Tea Party is to try to figure out how long it will last and what will take it down. Harry Reid says that all we need is a good economic boom. I'm not so sure. But I do know that it's hard to sustain the kind of wild rage that seems to be driving the movement. At some point there will be a counter- revolution.

    Or maybe not. And that's the second thing that strikes me. Where are all of the Republican moderates these days? What kind of a future do people like Jeb Bush or Charlie Crist or Bruce Bartlett or even David Frum have in today's Republican Party? Are these guys now becoming independents? Will some of them gravitate to the Democrats and make that party a more conservative party?

    Third, what are the kids doing? If you want to see the future of tennis, you look at what the 14 and 16 year olds are doing in terms of tactics, equipment and conditioning. So with this poor analogy in mind, I wonder what the younger conservatives are doing these days? Are they as rigidly nihilistic as the 41-year old Mr. Cruz? I guess we'll see.

  • T-Rex on August 02, 2012 5:18 PM:

    Aww, poor little white-flighters, faced with the horrible prospect that as fuel costs inevitably rise they might have to give up their commutes and their gas-burning lawnmowers, and move back into the same city with (gag) THOSE PEOPLE! And then how on earth will they blame the crumbling infrastructure of our cities on THOSE PEOPLE instead of themselves? Can't have it. This must be another Obama plot.

  • c u n d gulag on August 02, 2012 5:21 PM:

    Ok, Ed, you claim that Cruz thinks the UN wants to eliminate golf courses - but where are the links?

    Missing, like him?

  • T2 on August 02, 2012 5:23 PM:

    good god, these people are getting nuttier by the day. Was all this cause by just getting a black president? There's got to be some reason other than that, doesn't there?
    Reid may be right about an economic boom....but with the House being nutso and the Senate requiring 60 votes...and the sworn plan of the GOP to torpedo anything Obama could do to help get the economy going...I don't see that until all the diseased brains of the Conservative/TeaBags are gone....and how long will that take? Put it this way, do you see any room for growth here - once they've decided the UN is trying to take over the nation and abolish suburbs...where do you go except armed insurrections? I think the shelf life of the TeaParty is probably 2018. Instead of Reid's "economic boom" I think we are more likely to see the end of the TeaParty in The Big Depression. When you ain't got nothing, there's nothing left to lose.

  • Mimikatz on August 02, 2012 5:29 PM:

    Golf is actually very environmentally damaging, especially in the arid West, because of pesticides and water consumption, and likely to be a casualty of climate change without Agenda 21.

    On the larger issue, I think the benefits to developers and land speculators is a feature, not a bug. It is part of enabling the Predator Economy in receptive places. If this kind of nonsense is prevalent in California, it is only in the Southland.

  • howie on August 02, 2012 5:43 PM:

    Our county commissioners withdrew from all regional pacts on development, environment and infrastructure as soon as they took office. One of them talks about agenda 21 constantly.

    My county hasn't elected a Dem to any office since 1990.

  • Tom Hilton on August 02, 2012 7:06 PM:

    I'm glad you wrote about the Kurtz piece so I didn't have to. That really is some high-test lunacy there...and that's coming from a "respectable" conservative.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on August 02, 2012 7:32 PM:

    'Regional Planning' is an affront to God's will and the 'Natural Order' of life where he who has the most money gets what he wants.

  • TCinLA on August 02, 2012 7:53 PM:

    Can I volunteer to be a door-gunner on a UN black helicopter and "get some" (golfers) when we bomb the golf courses? Will it be legal to use napalm on them? Butterfly antipersonnel bombs?

    Mmmmmmmmm golfers! Mmmmmmmmmm (slurp)

  • Quaker in a Basement on August 02, 2012 8:14 PM:

    Rush was catapulting the propaganda for Kurtz' book today. That ought to tell you how far out on the nutso scale it is.

  • Eanders on August 02, 2012 8:24 PM:

    Dear God that was some hysterical writing by Kurtz. I've read a couple other things by him and the man is off his rocker. Buckley would be ashamed that the National Review has turned into a mouth piece for the John Birch Society conspiracy theory nonsense.

  • Doug on August 02, 2012 9:56 PM:

    While it has its' humorous aspects, this is basically about suburbs leeching off the services of the nearest urban area.
    Just ask youself: How many suburbs have dedicated, full-time fire departments? Police departments? Street departments? How many schools are actually located IN suburbs? Or churches, for that matter? How many factories or stores are located in suburbs?
    Then ask yourself: Where do all those who live in the suburbs work, shop or for other services?
    Too many, if not all, suburbanites want all the services of living in a built-up area without the area being built up. Many cities are now charging suburban residents for the services the city provides and THAT is what this is all about. Remember: subsidies to Republicans, whether a business (think oil companies) or an individual (it's rare for suburbs to vote Democratic), are sacred and never, ever to be touched or interfered with in ANY way.
    It'll be interesting when all those people retire and discover that, even with SS and what's left of their IRAs, they won't have enough to maintain their McMansions.
    Good times, good times...

  • James M on August 03, 2012 2:46 AM:

    Great posts everyone. But especially in answer to the posts by Extreme Moderate and T2, I would say that like the poor, 'the loony' also have always been with us!

    In my youth I knew many people (some of them relatives!) who were just as far out as the 'Agenda 21' crowd. I think the difference between then and now can be explained by 3 closely linked factors:

    1. Legitimacy

    In the old days, loonies used to sort of know they were nuts and generally restrict their rantings to safe family gatherings, barbershops or maybe the local watering hole. They knew that their views (no matter how true they may have felt them to be ) were not generally shared. Now, however, they have Fox News, right wing talk radio and national conservative politicians telling them that what they had long believed is indeed true. They don't have to hide in the shadows anymore.

    2. Communication

    Talk radio and online comment sections on right wing sites allow conspiracy types to air their views publicly in large, ideologically safe venues. They can now make their voices heard.

    3. Community

    The media and political factors mentioned above, along with social networking tools, have allowed the loony to form communities. My 'crazy old uncle' had to be very careful about who he chose to confide in. Now, conspiracy nuts who believe that bike paths are components in a larger UN plan to take over U.S. cities can easily unite with like-minded souls.

    The frightening thing about all this is that no matter who wins the coming presidential and congressional races this fall, these conspiracy believers and their supporting institutions will still be with us, and depending on the election outcomes may actually grow stronger!

  • Rick B on August 03, 2012 4:20 PM:

    @Extreme Moderate -> Your professor was right. There are no linear trends in social and political events. Instead there in individuals/institutions with positions facing forces which pressure them to move one way or another and force them to adapt.

    The main force that moves the teabaggers is libertarian money. The Koch brothers through Dick Armey's Freedom Works and other libertarian funders. Especially from Texas. Another force is the evangelical xtians who are coming out of the shadows they were in after the Scopes trials. Pat Robertson, Byron Fischer, Tony Perkins, etc. The money flows down from the top along with programs and planned and organized demonstrations, while the people too many them flow from the bottom kick started by radical right-wing preachers.

    The John Birch Society worked that way - funded initially by four Texas oil millionaires including H. L. Hunt, Murchison, and Bass, and one Okie. Remember, oil companies make their money by dominating local governments and using their police and military to repress the locals who suffer from the pollution. Extraction industries create only minimal middle classes. Mostly just wealthy plutocrats and serfs.

    General Electric and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushed this from way back. Their focus is anti-unionism. The Enterprise Instituted, the Heritage Society, and the CATO society provided the talking points to mobilize the ignorant masses. The Discovery Institute is another.

    What are the forces pushing back against these forces? Labor has been the big one and the Reagan Revolution neutered them. I'm hoping that global warming and the destruction of the seas as a source of food will wake people up.

    The Republican moderates have failed to stop the advance of liberalism (which is in truth the advance of cultural modernism as people move to cities to live and work. Their failure to stop the advance of modernism has left them the victims of right-wing demagoguery. That was part of the Southern Strategy, but it applied all over the country.

    As for the kids, look carefully. They are NOT voting conservative except for a few carefully groomed future leaders. They are growing up in the cities and do not understand the anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant fervor that is driving the current Tom Tamcredos. The kids mostly don't go to the evangelical churches, either. If they go to churches it's the more mainstream religions.

    The conservatives look back to 70 years of massive social change, especially the Civil Rights Movement for Blacks - leading to women and to LGBTQ's. But they always felt superior to the "minorities" and knew that the American President would always be a mainstream member of the dominant WASP society.

    Now every time they look at Obama they know their world has been destroyed. Obama doesn't even have to say anything. He is the symbol of all they have lost.

    Four to six generations of industrialism and urbanization has caused mass vive changes in the core values of society during each life time. People learn what is "right" by the time they are ten. No change after that is fully accepted by many. Conservatives are the main losers from modernization.

    @James M
    Exactly right. One other thing - the powerful conservatives are converting their power to money and using it at high political levels to protect them power and social standing from the changes as America urbanizes and becomes more industrialized (and post industrial.) The new media facilitate this.

    The conservatives are mainly the older upper middle class. They are trying to protect themselves from social change. Then the 1% are the aristocrat-wannabees doing what aristocrats always do when allowed. They are taking control and diverting the profits from productive society to themselves to augment their power. The fiction of the American Democracy has protected them for thirty or more years, but now they a

  • Rick B on August 03, 2012 4:58 PM:

    The rest:

    but now they are eating the core of our society out and have to be stopped and brought down. The wealthy aristocrats like the Koch Brothers fund and use the more numerous upper middle class conservatives.