In an effort to bolster his campaign less than 100 days before Election Day, President Donald Trump is leaning into off-the-wall race-baiting — a tactic that seems out-of-touch in the 21st century.
The president once again attacked an Obama-era fair-housing regulation during a press conference on Wednesday, and he made an off-hand remark pointing to the lack of diversity in the American suburbs.
His dependency on race-baiting tactics is also evident after his campaign released mugshots of Black inmates in an attempt to smear the Biden campaign — recalling a similar tactic used by the Bush campaign in 1988.
President Donald Trump has become reliant on decades-old racist tropes in a feeble attempt to bolster support for his campaign, as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden continues to rise in the polls.
In a press conference on Wednesday, the president railed against fair-housing regulations, labeling such a policy an "invasion" in the American suburbs, and saying this "invasion" would happen if Biden and newly-selected running mate Kamala Harris were elected.
"They're going to destroy suburbia. And just so you understand, 30+% of people living in suburbia are minorities — African American, Asian American, Hispanic American," Trump said during the press conference. "The number's even higher; they say 35, but I like to cut it a little lower."
"When they go in and they want to change zoning so that you have lots of problems or they want to build low-income housing, you want something where people kind of aspire to be there, not something where it gets hurt badly," he continued. "They fought all their lives to be there and then all of a sudden, they have something happen that changes their life and changes what they fought for, for so many years."
—Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 13, 2020
In a tweet earlier Wednesday, Trump also asserted that the "suburban housewife" will vote for him because "they want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would reinstall it, in a bigger form, with Corey Booker in charge!"
Sen. Booker is one of two Black men in the US Senate.
Trump is referring to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson effectively ended in 2018 after it was enacted by the Obama administration in 2015. The rule was added to make sure that local governments were following a clause in the Fair Housing Act, as FactCheck.org pointed out.
The AFFH required jurisdictions that get HUD funding to submit a plan on how they would address fair housing, which was defined by HUD as "taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics." It did not require localities to change their zoning laws, though localities may decide to do so in order to further fair housing.
"No, it emphatically does not require low-income housing to be built in suburban areas," Cary Coglianese, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, explained to FactCheck.org. "It also does not impose federal control over local zoning laws. Rather, it clarified a planning process that local governments already had a statutory obligation to undertake in connection with the receipt of federal HUD funding."
Beyond mischaracterizing what the fair-housing rule does, Trump has recently taken to claiming that the rule (and his view of the rule) is hurting suburbia. Though when pressed, he has not said who is "invading" the suburbs.
The president has not explicitly made a connection between the mention of the lack of diversity in American suburbs and his opposition against the integration of low-income housing — with racial and ethnic minorities making up a majority of those who rely on it. But it does display Trump's implicit correlation between lower-income housing and crime, rather than with increased opportunity and diversity. (Trump also regularly lashes out at cities and crime.)
Trump has repeatedly slammed the Obama-era fair-housing mandate designed to combat housing segregation and discrimination. Before officially ending the regulation, he threatened in a tweet to roll back the rule, citing its "devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas."
The president's latest attacks on fair housing exemplify his dependence on off-the-wall race-baiting against low-income populations to win the suburban vote — which as the president said on Wednesday are majority white.
Earlier this week, Trump's campaign tweeted photos of released Black inmates and their alleged charges in a pointed attack against the Biden campaign. The four Minnesotan defendants were released on bail with the help of the Minnesota Freedom Fund. More than a dozen Biden staffers donated to the nonprofit after it rose to prominence following the death of George Floyd, Reuters reported.
—Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) August 11, 2020
People were quick to point out that the move mirrored similar fear-mongering tactics in 1988 to support former President George H.W. Bush. The Bush campaign attempted to smear his opponent, then-Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts as soft on crime, by creating a political ad about William "Willie" Horton, a convicted felon who was sentenced to life in prison for murder.
Horton was temporarily released from prison as part of a weekend furlough program, but Horton did not return to prison as intended and raped a white woman and stabbed her boyfriend in 1986. Dukakis did not personally sign off on Horton's release, though he was in support of the furlough program, thus leading to the Bush campaign accusing him of not being tough enough on crime in the state.
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