I’ve noted in various places on social media that Trump’s campaign is struggling simply because he doesn’t know to campaign. The tapes are bad, but his followers had a passel of ready-made excuses for that. The major problem for Trump is the David Duke factor; he’s got people crawling out of the woodwork who celebrate the fact that Trump readily insults all the people they, themselves, hate–one of my students told a chilling story about dudes in Trump shirts at his gym sporting swastika tats, eyuch–and if you play nice with nonwhite constituencies, then those trogs get mad and see you as a sell-out. And it’s pretty clear that Trump shares the beliefs about The African-Americans, and The Mexicans and The Muslims and The Jews (the guys in the yarmulkes), so that’s his gig, too. He flourishes there. Then there’s…CHINA.
One sticking point for Trump in last night’s debate concerned his tendency to conflate “inner city” and “poor” and “black.” That construct is pretty dated if it was ever true. Certainly, there are impoverished inner ring suburbs, but many of those were also immigrant gateways over the last century as well as being African American. But the trope that black=inner city is very convenient for the real estate mind. African American neighborhoods in cities have been targeted time and time again for what Jane Jacobs’ calls “cataclysmic money”–the type of money that bulldozes you out and other people in, instead of the sort of money that might help people in neighborhoods gain wealth. The “African American Inner City” as a place of poverty and disorder is a construct, and it’s one that enables the constant rationale for “cleaning up” blight that allows those with cataclysmic money to come in and take–moving moneyed folk in, getting those without money out.
The binary “suburbs=white, rich, safe” and “inner cities=black, poor, dangerous” is one that should have died long ago. This spatial binary is a dog whistle trope wrapped up in a good bit of Clive Bundyish concern trolling. It appeals to people in rural areas who see cities as riots, crime, and decay even though by every measure urban quality of life, and wealth, has gone up year after year.
Suburbs, too, come in all flavors. There are rich white ones and poor white ones, and rich ones with Latinos in them and poor ones with Latinos in them, and so on, and so forth. There are wealthy black suburbs that go back close to 100 years in our metro regions (Uniondale, Baldwin Hills, etc).
But the key coalition for Trump concerns the white suburbs and the white rural residents who think they know what’s best for places they fear and don’t get to get know: those black, black areas. But they do so, magnanimously: black people do not need access to stable credit, tenure security, school fiscal enhancement, or business opportunity, or other things that might make the money flow in their direction. They need police. More and more and more of those police. Because the police mean order, and order is good. And once everything is orderly, then the Decent Black People(TM) can bootstrap themselves on up the American dream. Concern trolling 101: what is good for Those People also happens to be thing that I think will maintain the status quo and my personal property.