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Wanted: Leslie Knope Democrats

Here’s a great find from a reader. Back in 2012, the sitcom Parks And Recreation aired an episode called “The Debate.” It was part of a story line in which Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) was running for city council against Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd). Newport is the spoiled rich kid dunderhead scion of a local family whose candy factory employs half the town. He’s supposed to represent the pro-business conservative, whereas Knope represents the good-government liberal. In the televised campaign debate, Newport says his daddy told him that if Leslie Knope wins, he might have to move the candy factory to Mexico.

In her response, Leslie Knope says this:

I am very angry. I’m angry that Bobby Newport would hold this town hostage and threaten to leave if you don’t give him what he wants. It’s despicable. Corporations are not allowed to dictate what a city needs. That power belongs to the people. Bobby Newport and his daddy would like you to think it belongs to them. I love this town. And when you love something, you don’t threaten it. You don’t punish it. You fight for it. You take care of it. You put it first. As your City Councilor, I will make sure that no one takes advantage of Pawnee. If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on strong, it’s because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough. This is my home. You are my family. And I promise you. I’m not going anywhere.

You can watch the speech here, [1] starting at the 20:30 mark. Mind you, Amy Poehler is a Planned Parenthood supporter [2], so she may not at all agree with her character.

The reader who submitted that says that this was a statement of liberal orthodoxy in 2012. Now, though? The Woke Capitalists of liberal orthodoxy — Hollywood especially — are on the side of Bobby Newport, threatening to move their businesses out of poorer parts of the country because they do not love these places or the people who live there.

I invite abortion rights advocate Amy Poehler and you, reader, to take a look at this scorching essay in Scalawag by Katherine Ward-Hehn [3], an Alabama progressive woman who is as mad as hell about the new abortion laws. But she is also angry at Northerners for the way they’ve caricatured and scapegoated the South. She’s responding in particular to a Ginia Bellafante article in The New York Times that criticizes the South for suddenly becoming icky to Yankee expatriates because of its abortion laws. Ward-Hehn lets her have it. Excerpt:

The piece opens with Bellafante’s cousin in New Orleans, who upon hearing about the state’s abortion restrictions, said, “You really forget you’re in the Deep South here.” This cousin is on to something: There absolutely is a rural-urban divide in politics, but that divide exists across the U.S.—even in New York.

And the thing is, New Orleans is the “Deep South.” So is Dallas, Birmingham, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, and yes, Miami—the cities that, according to Bellafante, were uninhabitable until they traded their own complex histories for strip mall versions of Brooklyn. If you’re going to other the South, you don’t get to cherry-pick what constitutes the South and Southerners. You don’t get to rewrite our history either, like this paragraph chock-full of bullshit:

‘The New South’ was a term conceived in the aftermath of the Civil War to suggest a set of aspirations of some southern elites who hoped to rebuild a backward and devastated place into a world better aligned with Northern urban values.

If by “Northern urban values” Bellafante means the industrialization of this region by way of extracting resources with racist labor policies, then yes, that is the definition of New South.

Industrialization hinged on Northern investment, which allowed New York financiers to profit wildly from subjecting Southern Blacks and poor whites to horrendous labor conditions. That’s the relationship between North and South—one of extraction. Wealth in the North exists today because of these conditions. Meanwhile, the South continues to suffer. We see it in all those nationally ranked quality of life measures where we’re consistently the worst— from our poor birth outcomes to our early deaths. Then the North mocks and frowns upon our suffering, pouring salt in the wound.

Are those the “Northern urban values” we so desperately seek to mimic?


This essay isn’t for my fellow Southerners, unless you’re foolish enough to buy into this kind of backwards thinking. This is for all the folks like Bellafante who think the South is simply a place to indulge in their privilege cheaply.

We’ve had enough of your condescending entitlement, thanks.

If you have an inkling of solidarity with those of us here working against oppressive laws, then by all means, put your precious Northern money to good use by supporting the organizations doing the work on the ground in the South.

Read the whole thing.  [4]

When my family and I moved to south Louisiana in 2011, some of our friends in the Northeast genuinely didn’t understand. Why would you take your kids to live in a place that is close to last on all the statistical measures of life quality (the measures of life quality that mean something to upwardly mobile urban professionals, at least)? Well, I wrote a book explaining that, but I could have done just as well by saying what Leslie Knope said: Because I love it. 

This industry boycott threatened against Georgia and other states really ought to unite local people of the left and the right. I understand why liberals hate the new abortion laws. I don’t agree, but I understand why they feel that way, and I don’t begrudge them lobbying to overturn them. Where Katherine Ward-Hehn’s progressive worldview and mine intersect — perhaps the only place! — is in resentment at the entitlement these Hollywood people and other capitalists have to think they should have the right to come here and make money on us (and with us), but as soon as the people democratically vote for a law that does not affect their business, but rather simply offends their delicate liberal consciences, they want to ghost us.

To paraphrase slightly that great populist liberal Leslie Knope, “Corporations aren’t allowed to dictate what a state needs. That power belongs to the people.” If this boycott goes through, the people who are going to be hurt by this are some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in America. The price of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street liberals feeling good about themselves for sticking it to Boss Hogg is not going to be paid primarily by Boss Hogg.

We need some Leslie Knope Democrats — and Leslie Knope Republicans.

117 Comments (Open | Close)

117 Comments To "Wanted: Leslie Knope Democrats"

#1 Comment By JonF On June 14, 2019 @ 7:39 pm

Re: Back then, life expectancy was much lower

If you’re talking the Middle Ages, sure life expectancy was a lot lower. In 1950? It was a bit lower, but we certainly didn’t have childhood mortality figures of 50% dragging down the averages.

Re: When the government causes things to happen by its own actions, invariably there are long-term unintended consequences.

Unintended consequences are the the result of everything everyone does everywhere, not just government. That’s just part of life and we deal with what we must.

Re: You can’t possibly guarantee lower health care costs and higher health care quality,

Really. Take “health care” not of that sentence and apply it generally. We can never see an increase in quality and a decrease in costs?

Re: I suggest you research the issue before belching out erroneous opinions like that.

It’s not erroneous. Who goes around saying “I love my insurance”. That sounds like an advertisement even industry execs were too embarrassed to ever air. And if you don’t hear far more people complain about problems with their health insurance than rhapsodizing about it then either you are (as I’ve suspected before) an industry flak well paid to ignore real life among the peons or you are living in another reality far, far away. As Siarlys has said, quite sensibly, people will go with something concrete they know over something untested and uncertain. That’s all that’s going on there. Don’t mistake that sort of inertia for true affection. The nobles of Versailles thought they were liked by their people too, until they learned otherwise.

#2 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On June 15, 2019 @ 2:51 am

MM says:

Now, if you’re going to argue that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and it’s because they aren’t getting paid enough by their employers, and are being “exploited”, you’re going to have to explain why people wealthier than I am, who make up to $100,000 per year, should be considered part of the working poor. That’s the entire middle class, upper middle class, and even people who would be considered rich in most places in America.

This is a worthwhile question. It seems the answer is that most of America (both blue and red) is spending way more than they should, largely on credit. Roughly 60% of Americans also can’t pay an unexpected $1000 expense (medical bill or car repair). I know lots of the high earning folk who are in this position. Usually it is for one of two reasons: 1) they accumulated a bunch of debt in school under the assumption that they would have a high paying job to pay it off easily later but it grew so big that they are still paying it off in their 40s. 2) Keeping up with the Joneses. There is a lot of internal competition amongst the yuppy set (red or blue) and keeping up appearances costs money. Really though, there has just been a huge cultural shift since the Greatest generation, which never spent any money and hid what they made in their mattresses because they didn’t trust banks, and current generations for which spending money is therapeutic and there is no fear of real disaster. I’m sure Rod would find a way to blame this on the sexual revolution, but I’m gonna go with the valorization of capitalism and consumerist propaganda.

#3 Comment By muad’dib On June 15, 2019 @ 11:16 am

“At least three in four Americans have consistently rated the quality of their healthcare positively, ranging from 76% to 83%, over the past 18 years. Smaller majorities have described their coverage as excellent or good since 2001, ranging from 63% to 72%.”

“Since 2001, at least slim majorities of Americans have reported satisfaction with the cost they pay for their personal healthcare, ranging from 54% to 64%. The latest reading, 58%, matches the average over that time.”

Twist the facts anyway you want, that’s fine. I’m just reporting them and taking Americans’ opinions at face value. There’s always room for improvement, particularly regarding cost, but pardon me for not goose-stepping towards your ultimate goal of eliminating private health care.

Those are the people who haven’t had to use their health insurance, as soon as they have to use it they’ll discover how poor it is, how many loopholes there are in it, how many things aren’t covered and what a pain it is to get reimbursed…

#4 Comment By muad’dib On June 15, 2019 @ 11:22 am

Let me make a prediction for you: Candidates who run on that explicit policy will lose. I’d certainly vote against anyone who advocated eliminating my private health care, because they always claim the government will provide “better quality” at a “lower cost”, neither of which they can guarantee, nor would I believe them if they tried. That was one of the Big Lies put forth by Obama to promote the ACA.

Amusingly enough every single European country offers universal health care which gets better results for substantially less money. Are you telling me that Americans are dumber, greedier and more incompetent than Europeans?

#5 Comment By MM On June 16, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

muad: “Those are the people who haven’t had to use their health insurance, as soon as they have to use it they’ll discover how poor it is.”

I see, sir, like most progressives, you consider Americans to be profoundly stupid people who don’t know anything when they respond in ways you don’t like in public opinion surveys.

I’d believe you if you could prove that claim with any facts, but of course, since I’ve looked myself, I know you won’t be able to. And I doubt you’ve ever looked for yourself, anway.

You people are caricatures of the very worst the left has to offer…

#6 Comment By MM On June 16, 2019 @ 2:03 pm

JonF: “That’s just part of life and we deal with what we must.”

So why don’t you voluntarily go on Medical, stay there for the rest of your life, and then get back to me in 25 years and see how you’re health is doing doing?

I’ll keep my private sector health care and we can compare notes. Then you’ll see what the unintended consequences of your proposals would really mean.

JonF: “We can never see an increase in quality and a decrease in costs?”

Show me an example of where to government totally crowded out the private sector and I’ll believe you.

To date, you’ve never shown me any examples of anything, and never conviced me of anything either.

JonF: “Who goes around saying “I love my insurance'”

Well, I demonstrated with public opinion data that when asked, most people rate their health care quite highly.

But I understand completely where you’re coming from. Any data that conflicts with your ideological beliefs and goals, you disregard and pay zero attention to.

By the way, that’s the definition of erroneous, because you’re using absolutely no logic or reason when stating what you think the population of American believes.

When your opinion isn’t based on fact, but merely anecdote, and it’s at odds with the established facts, your opinion is invalid, period.

Sorry, but I’m just using the tools that liberals and progressives claim a monopoly on themselves, but seldom employ, as this discussion very clearly demonstrates.

#7 Comment By MM On June 16, 2019 @ 2:37 pm

JonF: “Employer provided health insurance existed before WWII, but had not become the norm.”

The first employer-provided group health insurance plan was at the Baylor Hospital in Dallas, TX in 1929:


That idea eventually grew into Blue Cross. Kaiser also started out very small in the early 1930s, and only a tiny fraction of the population ever had health insurance during the Great Depression.

As NPR notes:


“The modern system of getting benefits through a job required another catalyst: World War II. Thomasson says that if the Great Depression inadvertently inspired the spread of employer-based health insurance, World War II accidentally spread the idea everywhere.”

My original point stands, sir. You want to use new, heavy-handed government policy to demolish a system that was built up over many decades as a reaction to old, heavy-handed government policy.

And labor unions aren’t on your side, either. They’ll all be lobbying Congress for exemptions from “Medicare For All” or “VA For All” which AOC has called for.

I don’t blame them…

#8 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 16, 2019 @ 2:44 pm

The core of “universal” health care: everyone pays something. It could be premium-based (actuaries know things, politicians tend to ignore them when inconvenient), it could be formula based (like Social Security, where employer and employee pay for half the total withholding), or it could be a federal budget line item, for which general revenues cover the budget cost.

Bernie and others don’t want informed voters. They want votes, and they get them by making people afraid or telling them what they want to hear. The basic design of universal coverage is simple. Its first outcome would be stripping most of the profits from the current corporate control over it. That, my fellow readers, is why it will be difficult to pass and implement.

You will be told that quality will suffer. You will be told that corruption will take over. What you won’t be told, what you damn well should know by now, is that quality already suffers to protecting the profit margin, and corruption is rife from the pharmas to the insurance companies, and there is already case law to prove it.

#9 Comment By MM On June 16, 2019 @ 10:08 pm

“Quality already suffers to protecting the profit margin, and corruption is rife from the pharmas to the insurance companies, and there is already case law to prove it.”

Half of health care spending is already publicly financed, and half of the private half is already non-profit. Profit margins do not represent very much of health care spending, that’s just an undeniable, mathematical fact.

And the government already wastes far, far more in “improper payments” than private health care companies pocket in profits.

Of course, progressives never tell you those things. They just repeat the mantra, private bad, public good, give us all the money, which we’ll never give back, and everything will be wonderful for everyone.

Luckily, most Americans aren’t as stupid as progressives think…

#10 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 16, 2019 @ 11:21 pm

So why don’t you voluntarily go on Medical…

JonF doesn’t live in California. There is a reason its called MediCAL.

When your opinion isn’t based on fact, but merely anecdote…

Anecdotes are facts. They are not statistics. Each can tell us something. Both together cannot tell us the whole truth.

I see, sir, like most progressives, you consider Americans to be profoundly stupid people who don’t know anything when they respond in ways you don’t like in public opinion surveys.

Can’t speak for anyone else, but when I critique polls, I usually question the way questions can be framed to elicit a response that simply doesn’t give a comprehensive insight into the complex thoughts of real live people. Its also true that people may well be satisfied with a process, if they have never had to make much use of it, because they believe it will be there for them when they need it. One does not have to be stupid to be surprised that American sales propaganda lied.

Franklin Evans summarizes the real situation very well. Its his field of expertise after all.

#11 Comment By JonF On June 17, 2019 @ 8:52 am

MM, please don’t put words in my mouth. I have stated my position more than once on these threads. I am by nature a gradualist (“festina lente”, as Augustis said), and like many people I distrust schemes that involve massive disruption. I’d be perfectly Ok with a system that preserves non-governmemt health coverage (though in the abstract I do think we’d be better ending the link to employment) provided that all such entities were non-profits* and a robust public option exists.
As Siarlys with his usual clear headedness points out, polls, especially those involving highly nuanced matters, can produce widely divergent results depending on how they’re worded.

*Both the Netherlands and Switzerland have ACA-like systems, but in both nations only non-profit plans may participate. Of course you’re liable to point put that profit is a minor fraction of health insurance income, but that income is a huge figure and e en a minircfeaction of it is a huge figure too.

#12 Comment By MM On June 17, 2019 @ 10:47 am

Jenkins: “There is a reason its called MediCAL.”

They call Medicaid different things in different states. That’s a distinction without a difference, and my point remains unaddressed.

“Both together cannot tell us the whole truth.”

Acedotes and statistics are often 180 degrees different, which why the former, when used to make a broad generalization about something, I always disregard even if they sound right to me personally. Apply the logical about truth to epidemiology: Are you going to rely on anecdotes or statistics when deciding whether to get vaccinated for a horrible disease?

“But when I critique polls, I usually question the way questions can be framed to elicit a response that simply doesn’t give a comprehensive insight into the complex thoughts of real live people.”

So, demonstrate to me how the polling I cited was framed deceptively and invalid, in your expert opinion. Because I get this a lot from lefties: The polling isn’t valid for X, Y, and Z reasons, but coincidentially, they only make those claims when the results of said polling isn’t to their ideological liking.

When they cite their own polling, like “paycheck to paycheck” rubbish, I get dead silence on the lack of reasoning and dubious methodology.

And explain again your claim that the 2016 state level presidential polls in Michigan, Pennslyvania, and Wisconsin were all accurate, despite showing Clinton winning in those states?

Those polls were framed as simply as possible, sir. Who are you going to vote for, period.

#13 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 17, 2019 @ 11:36 am


I’m not an expert. I was and am professionally informed. I was an “insider” for a while, and the long span of years since that tenure ended produced many changes. One thing remains the same: the vast majority of insurance, health and all the others, is for-profit in some sense. The mutual corporations in insurance are rare any more. List the ten largest insurance companies, and see how many of them are privately owned or publicly traded.

You’re preaching to the choir here when you cite public vs. private, and the flaws on both sides. There is no way to piecemeal reform health care coverage and delivery, and profit incentive is the primary obstacle.

I’ll give you mathematical fact: over time (the last four decades or so), insurance companies have adopted a “discount” on premiums to get people to buy their products, knowing that after a first claim the premiums would be jacked up significantly. Ask any actuary, and you’ll learn that this used to be called bait-and-switch and borderline fraud.

Most Americans are not stupid. They are ignorant, and kept that way with their cooperation.

#14 Comment By MM On June 17, 2019 @ 3:40 pm

Jenkins: “Franklin Evans summarizes the real situation very well.”

Yes, and I have no doubt he’s correct, to some degree. But the situation he’s summarizing is only 1/4 of the health care industry, as I indicated.

Merely to insure the poor, the retired, and public sector workers, our government, federal, state, and local, already spends the equivalent of what other industrialized nations spend on everyone’s health care.

I’ve yet to see a rational proposal by big government boosters that address that fundamental economic reality.

#15 Comment By MM On June 17, 2019 @ 11:19 pm

Evans: “Insurance companies have adopted a ‘discount’ on premiums to get people to buy their products, knowing that after a first claim the premiums would be jacked up significantly.”

That’s fascinating, I’ve never heard of such a practice other than auto insurance, where premiums do go up if you’re at fault.

However, my medical and dental insurance plans have no such premium increase after the first claim. I suspect the vast majority of workers who have health insurance through their employers have the same experience.

And my life insurance pays out to my wife when I die. The premiums only go up slightly the older I get.

I’ve only had personal experience with “normal” types of insurance.

#16 Comment By JonF On June 18, 2019 @ 6:25 pm

Re: Merely to insure the poor, the retired, and public sector workers, our government, federal, state, and local, already spends the equivalent of what other industrialized nations spend on everyone’s health care.

We are also a good deal more populous than other first world industrialized nations. The issue is not what the government spends anyway: the government cheaps out on its payments, especially Medicaid. The big issue however is what providers charge, which are very often well out of line with what other nations’ providers charge.

#17 Comment By MM On June 25, 2019 @ 3:59 pm

JonF: “The issue is not what the government spends anyway.”

That’s always the issue. The pie is only so big, and the government already takes 40% of it.

You progressives have no concept of scarcity or incentives, huh?

Is there a problem you can point to, in America or abroad, which was solved by “unlimited” money being thrown at it?