The cities-as-foreign-territory approach is bad politics for the Republicans: after all, successful cities like New York and Houston surge with ambitious strivers and entrepreneurs, who should instinctively sympathize with the GOP’s faith in private industry. The Republican move away from the cities is also bad for the cities themselves, which have hugely benefited—and could benefit a lot more—from right-of-center ideas. …

The 2012 party platform, by contrast, had no city-oriented policies whatsoever and used the word “urban” just twice—once to decry the current administration’s allegedly “replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.” …

Cities have suffered from the GOP’s departure. For one thing, any group or place benefits from being the object of political competition: swing groups in swing states, such as Cubans in Miami and autoworkers in Ohio, receive political attention and favors, while solidly Republican or Democratic constituencies get taken for granted. The Obama administration surely did less for cities than it would have if it had feared losing urban votes.

But handouts and other pandering are far less valuable than the other asset that Republican-abandoned cities have lost: the particularly Republican perspective, with its focus on economic freedom, competition, and law and order. That perspective formulated some of the most successful policies in memory for making cities better places to live. Without it, the urban success stories of recent years could wither.