MICHAEL BARONE: “When people ask me why I moved from liberal to conservative, I have a one-word answer: Detroit. I grew up there, on a middle-class grid street in northwest Detroit and a curving street in affluent suburban Birmingham, and I got a job as an intern in the office of the mayor in the summer of 1967 when Detroit rioted. I was at the side of Mayor Jerome Cavanagh and occasionally Governor George Romney during the six days and nights in which 43 people, mostly innocent bystanders, died. I listened to the radio in the police commissioner’s office as commanders announced, shortly after sundown, that they were abandoning one square mile after another. The riot ended only after federal troops were called in and restored order. Cavanagh was bright, young, liberal, and charming. He had been elected in 1961 at age 33 with virtually unanimous support from blacks and with substantial support from white homeowners—then the majority of Detroit voters—and he was reelected by a wide margin in 1965. He and Martin Luther King, Jr., led a civil rights march of 100,000 down Woodward Avenue in June 1963. He was one of the first mayors to set up an antipoverty program and believed that city governments could do more than provide routine services; they could lift people, especially black people, out of poverty and into productive lives. Liberal policies promised to produce something like heaven. Instead they produced something more closely resembling hell. You can get an idea of what happened to Detroit by looking at some numbers. The Census counted 1,849,568 people in Detroit in 1950, including me. It counted 713,777 in 2010.”
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