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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dreier: 2020 Voters Prefer Solutions to Polarizing Distractions

So how did Trump’s efforts to crank up racial polarization between city and suburban residents pan out? In “Trump’s Racist Appeal To The Suburbs Is Backfiring,” Peter Dreier, author of Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century, writes at Talking Points Memo:

President Donald Trump has failed to build a physical wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but now he wants to build another wall — between America’s cities and their suburbs. In recent weeks he’s sought to stoke white resentment with inflammatory rhetoric directed at white suburbanites. But so far they don’t seem to be buying what Trump is selling…On July 23, Trump tweeted a message targeted to what he called “The Suburban Housewives of America.” He warned that “Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better.”

…Of course, the real purpose of Trump’s statements was not to inform Americans about some little-known, technical housing policy but to tell his political base that he opposes government efforts to address racism in any form. It banked on the idea that his statements would whip up fear among white suburban voters that, unless they re-elect him in November, they will confront a massive invasion of Black and Brown people into their communities. These statements were not a subtle dog whistle. They were a blast from a megaphone.

But recent polling data indicates that his efforts are predicated on some flse assumptions:

According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, conducted July 29 and 30, over half of white Americans (55%), and clear majorities of Black Americans (92%) and Latino Americans (72%), disapprove of Trump’s combative response to the nationwide protests. The numbers aren’t much better among Trump’s supposed base. Among white non-college educated Americans only 42% believe that the presence of federal agents improves the situation. Over a third (37%) of this group think that Trump has made the situation worse. Moreover, 66% of Americans believe that Trump has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis, up from 54% in March.

Although Trump tailored his message to “suburban housewives,” the reality is that most suburban women now work outside the home. And polls suggest the President is in trouble with these voters. A Fox News poll conducted July 12–15 asked likely voters who they intended to vote for in November. Among suburbanites, Biden led Trump by a 47% to 38% margin, but among suburban women, Biden’s margin was even wider — 55% to 32%…According to a recent New York Times/Sienna College poll, 14% of voters in six battleground states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina) who supported Trump in 2016 say they won’t likely support him again this year. They are mostly suburbanites.

Recent election results also suggest that Trump’s polarizing approach is not working:

The trends don’t look good for Trump. In the 2018 midterms, voters delivered the House to the Democrats, mostly by flipping Republican seats in the suburbs. According to an analysis by Dan Balz of the Washington Post (which I updated to include California’s contested 21st Congressional District) Democrats won 38 of the 69 suburban districts that had been held by Republicans. The Democrats not only picked up seats in the densely-populated suburbs adjacent to cities but also in the more sparsely populated suburbs, according to an analysis by Geoffrey Skelly of FiveThirtyEight. In both cases, these are suburbs that include low-income people, people of color, and middle-class professionals of all races. For example, Lucy McBath, an African American woman and liberal Democrat, flipped a Congressional seat in an overwhelmingly white suburban district outside Atlanta. In fact, all nine African Americans who were elected to Congress for the first time in 2018 represent predominantly white and mostly suburban districts. Last November, Democratic candidates for the Virginia legislature, county boards in Pennsylvania, Kentucky governor, and elsewhere prevailed by winning suburban voters in traditionally Republican areas.

“Like most Americans,” Dreier concludes,  “suburbanites want a president who will address the COVID-19 pandemic, expand health care coverage, improve the economy with more good-paying jobs, deal with the impacts of climate change, provide more funding for both K-12 schools and higher education, renew respect for the U.S. around the world, and deal with Americans’ common problems rather than stoke division.”

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