President Trump is struggling in the polls with the suburban voters, a group that helped him secure the White House in 2016. But Trump’s approach to connecting with these voters displays a significant ignorance about who suburban voters are and how they view the world in 2020.
Trump tweeted Wednesday:
Last week, the president moved to repeal the fair housing rule that he believes would destroy America’s suburbs, has he tweeted, to save “the Suburban Housewives of America.”
The president’s perception of the suburbs seems pretty much shaped by someone who grew up in an affluent community outside of a major city when many of the country’s growing suburbs were home to White middle-class and upper-class families. These communities were often built for White Americans hoping to escape inner cities as they rapidly became more diverse as Black Americans from the South and immigrants Caribbean and Latin America sought better jobs.
Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, and author of “In The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,” previously told Smithsonian Magazine:
But despite their history, the suburbs are not what they used to be.
Suburban poverty is rising — and concentrated poverty growing faster in American suburbs, more low-income people live in the suburbs than urban centers, according to Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities, and the author of “The New Urban Crisis.”
He wrote about the two major demographic changes reshaping suburbs in 2019 for Bloomberg CityLab:
Trump’s tweet acknowledges that suburbs are now home to more low-income residents, but he seems to be underplaying just how many — and may be unaware that many of these Americans vote.
This ignorance may also help explain why Trump is fairing so poorly with suburban voters — a demographic he barely won in 2016. He received 49 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 45 percent. While the president speaks to suburban voters as if they are mostly White women raising children while their husbands work, many suburban voters come from groups with worldviews that differ greatly from those espoused by those in MAGA world. These voters are looking for someone with plans to address inequality between Black and White families, police violence against Black people in the suburbs and other issues that are of high priority to voters of color. And as a result former vice president Joe Biden is outperforming the president with these voters.
But even many of the White voters who backed Trump in 2016 have expressed increased discomfort with the president’s overt race-baiting and stances on major cultural issues like police brutality. Most Americans — including significant percentages within voting blocs that Trump previously won — disapprove of how Trump has responded to matters of racism sweeping the country.
Appealing to the cultural anxieties of his base was effective in securing the White House for Trump in 2016. But with a country that is looking for a leader to offer solutions to the country’s major culture wars as well as an economic crisis and health pandemic that are both disproportionately harming people of color, Trump may discover that some groups he won were never as solidly in his base as he may have believed and as a result, are on track to vote against him this November.
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