Is Detroit, Michigan a Liberal City?

Detroit, Michigan is a city that is still recovering from one of the worst economic disasters in American history. What path is it takes to get there?

Detroit is one of the most liberal places in Michigan. Detroit and the rest of Wayne County as a whole have voted Democrat in every presidential election in the past several decades, making them a firm liberal stronghold in a state that already leans liberal most of the time.

But what does liberalism look like for people in Detroit, and how have the city’s political ideals formed the city’s policies?

Detroit Voting History

While Michigan has only gone red once in the last 20 years, Detroit hasn’t really had a time in recent memory where its devotion to the Democratic party has really failed. The city has gone blueOpens in a new tab. in both federal and statewide elections consistently for over twenty years.

That being said, recently the percentage of Democratic voters compared to the total number of voters in the city has decreased from seventy percent to only about 66. While it will still be a long time before this trend means meaningful change for the way the city is actually voting (if that ever happens) it does represent a real demographic shift.

This is especially interesting because the percentage of Republican voters has not increased proportionally. While it has been increasing since 2012, it was actually independent candidates that took almost five percent of the city’s vote from Democrats in 2016 and one and a half percent in 2020.

This suggests some distaste from many Detroiters for both political parties, although the majority of politically involved people in the metro are still democratically aligned.

As for the mayoral office, a Republican hasn’t been mayor of Detroit since 1970, when Jerome Cavanagh beat out incumbent Louis Miriani for the title. Ever since then, the job has been held by a series of Democrats, most of whom have been African American. This makes sense, as the city’s population is over seventy percent African American itself.

Detroit’s current mayor, Mike DugganOpens in a new tab., is also a Democrat. His main efforts have been on increasing employment opportunities in the city and upkeeping public services such as streetlights.

The position of Mayor in Detroit is officially nonpartisan. That being said, any place there are politicians there is going to be partisanship.

As for congressional representation, the city of Detroit is a part of Michigan’s 13th congressional district and has a majority of the voting power in this district, which has elected a Democrat to the US House of Representatives every election since 1949. The current representative from the 13th district is Rashida TlaibOpens in a new tab., who took office in 2018.

A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Tlaib is a strongly left-wing figure. The DSA is a political organization with roots in the work of Eugene DebsOpens in a new tab., an American politician and presidential candidate whose claim to fame was running for president from a prison cell, having been imprisoned for seeking to undermine the draft with his speech in opposition to World War One.

The modern DSA is not a political party, instead, it is an organization whose members may be unaffiliated, members of a communist or socialist party, or Democrats. Like many other democratic socialists, Tlaib is a Democrat.

Her political positions include abolishing ICE, police and prison abolition, support of Palestine in the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and abortion rights. In Congress, she has voted along with these interests and supported many other liberal policies.

Tliab has handily won the last two elections held in Michigan’s 13th congressional district, beating out her closest competitors by over two hundred thousand votes each time. I would be very surprised if she lost her seat any time soon.

Detroit City Policies

Many ostensibly liberal places end up with pretty non-liberal policies for a variety of reasons. Looking at city policies is a good way to keep city leaders accountable for their professed political beliefs.

The city is one of 69 of the most populous cities in the United States to have laws on the books preventing discrimination based on gender identity. The Human Rights CommissionOpens in a new tab. has also given Detroit a score of 100/100 points for LGBTQ+ support, suggesting that the city takes inclusion pretty seriously.

The city also has significant renter’s protection rules, including a right to organize into tenant’s unions and a registry of deeds that potential renters can use to confirm that their landlords actually own the property they’re trying to rent out. While there don’t seem to be any rules in place to prevent landlords from unfairly raising rent, there are more options in Detroit to help renters get their due than in most other cities.

The city also works closely with the EPAOpens in a new tab. to try and lessen its environmental burden. This is important, as the city’s history of industrialism has left it with significant pollution problems that are an immediate danger to many of the city’s residents. These efforts have ranged from stopping power plants from lying about their pollutant outputs to educating residents on soil safety.

Finally, the city of Detroit is a historic union stronghold. With its high density of factories and other working-class jobs, it is only natural that laborers would organize to stop themselves from being exploited. While some of the factory jobs in the area have gone elsewhere in recent years, the culture of union organizing still remains.

Should Liberals Move To Detroit

Detroit is a city with a very particular reputation, and in many ways, that reputation serves as a deterrent preventing a lot of people from moving there. It is hard to say whether that reputation is truly earned or not. Crime rates within the city are certainly higher than they are in most of the country, but those numbers have consistently been on the decreaseOpens in a new tab. between 2006 and 2020Opens in a new tab..

There are a couple of reasons that this might be happening. The first is a shift in the way crimes are reported, as evidenced by the increase in sexual assaults compared to the decrease in every other crime. It could be that the number has stayed consistent but the number of people willing to come to authorities about the crime has increased, while victims of other crimes have become more afraid to report the crimes they have suffered to the police.

The shift in numbers could also be caused by the two large-scale disasters that have occurred in the city within the period between 2006 and now, the first being the city’s desolation following the 2008 financial crisis and the second being the 2020 global pandemic.

Decreases in population in 2008 may have forced decreases in criminal activity, while the pandemic correlated with a decrease in all crimes generally across the country with most people forced to stay home for long periods of time. This was largely true in Detroit as well, with a decrease in crimes across the board.

The exception to this was aggravated assaults, which actually increased significantly. Whether this increase was caused by the Pandemic or not is difficult to tell.

The final possibility is that Detroit may genuinely be changing for the better. Qualified with the statistic that even during the pandemic lows Detroit’s crime rate was hugely above the average for the country, the decreases have been steady and significant for many years now. Maybe that trend will hold.

All in all, it seems that liberals moving to Detroit will be bolstering an already strongly liberal community and may be able to make a difference for the better in city policy through their choices.

It’s difficult to say that any person should move to Detroit because of the astonishingly high crime rates, but if the only thing that the person moving cares about is being in a community where liberal policies are being regularly instituted, then that is certainly happening in Detroit.

Should Conservatives Move To Detroit

There is a lot of talk among conservatives about high crime rates in liberal cities. This is usually unfounded, as in the vast majority of American cities crime has been decreasing since the 1970s. The average crime rate for homicides, for instance, was only 5 in 100,000 in 2019, and even in big cities like LA and San Francisco, this number was only beat by one or two instances per 100,000.

Is this nothing? Surely it is not, since 7 murders for every 100,000 people is still a huge number of people in a city with over a million people in it. However, it isn’t so much more than the rest of the country that the murders could be said to deplete the city’s population.

That being said, statistics seem to support some wariness towards the city of Detroit. In 2019, when the average number was 5 murders for every 100,000 people, the same year that LA had 7 in 100,000, the Detroit police department reported around 45 for every 100,000.

Well, that isn’t entirely true. The Detroit PD reports the total number of crimes committed in Detroit and not the actual rate at which they occur. However, several commonly used crime rate reporting websites have taken those numbers and reported them as a number out of 100,000Opens in a new tab., leading to numbers rates that appear much larger than they actually are.

All of this is to say that people who are especially worried about the presence of crime in an area should probably not move to Detroit.

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Nathan Aydelotte

Hello! I'm Nathan, the lead editor for Suggested by locals. I grew up in the Boise, Idaho area and have lived here most of my life. I enjoy being close to the mountains where I can go hiking, camping, and mountain biking.

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