White Liberals Want Safe American Suburbs Preserved While Claiming Trump’s Efforts to Do So Are Racist

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Liberals worry that President Donald Trump’s outspoken support for suburbia will win over the support of many anti-Trump liberals who live there and are scaling back their claim that suburban zoning is disadvantageous for minorities.

“When the president rolled back an Obama-administration effort to encourage fair housing practices, he put his finger on the soft spot in suburbia’s creeping liberalism,” a July 21 report in New York Magazine said.

When their property is threatened by government regulation, “many an affluent white progressive discovers his inner Archie Bunker,” the magazine report said, referring to the sitcom featuring a racist character in the 1970s sitcom All in the Family.

“White liberals … would be even more outraged if anyone dared tried to build public or even multi-family housing in their neighborhood,” said a tweet by left-wing journalist and activist Josie Duffy Rice. “It’s VERY often left-of-center people who fight against affordable housing.”

Trump and his deputies are rolling back the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation set by President Barack Obama. The regulation allows the federal government to punish the suburbs and towns that do not welcome lower-income people who are moving out of expensive coastal cities.

“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the [AFFH] regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson said at the time.

“I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood,” Trump tweeted last week.

The left has since been scrambling to explain why preserving the suburbs is racist and why some white people who live there have Black Lives Matters signs pitched on their manicured lawns.

“Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s remarks ‘disgusting,’ saying the president is ‘actively working to gut fair housing laws and legalize housing discrimination,’” Politico reported.

“Every American deserves access to the American dream. We will fight this,” Schumer wrote on Twitter.

 “Just because people are poor doesn’t mean they’re bad. That’s obvious to most, but not to bigots like @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted Julián Castro, who was a Democrat presidential candidate and served as HUD secretary under Barack Obama.

“The political play here is not hard to decipher,” Ben Zimmer, a linguist and language commentator, wrote in The Atlantic. “Trump feels he needs to portray ‘the suburbs’ as under an imminent threat to provoke racist fears among white voters. That threat, he implies, would come about from the diversification of neighborhoods encouraged by the Fair Housing Act, the provisions of which Biden has pledged to expand.”

“And by couching the issue in terms of ‘the Suburban Lifestyle Dream,’ Trump plays into a caricature of an idealized homogenous past, a white-bread Leave It to Beaver image of 1950s suburbia,” Zimmer wrote. “That image was always a lie, but it is instructive to see how the very words suburb and suburban have served historically as a kind of palette for painting racial, ethnic, and economic divisions on the American landscape.”

The Washington Post’s editorial board unsurprisingly also trashed Trump’s housing policies and praised his 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden:

It should not have taken the death of another black man in police custody to catalyze the debate over long-standing residential segregation and racial wealth inequality, but it did — and that debate is now in full swing. Predictably, President Trump’s contribution to it on Twitter was appallingly divisive. He appealed to what he believes to be the self-interest of suburban residents, telling them his abrogation of a key Obama administration regulation to foster desegregated neighborhoods means that “all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream . . . will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood. Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down.” It was a grotesque effort to win reelection by stoking racial fear.

We have our doubts that it will work: The president seems unaware of the rising sympathy for Black Lives Matter in those very same suburbs. His opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, is offering a different message, including a tax proposal that could increase homeownership — suburban or otherwise — to more low-income people more efficiently than current tax policies do. Mr. Biden would institute a refundable tax credit of $15,000 for first-time home buyers, most of whom do not make enough money to itemize their deductions — which means they do not benefit from the main federal tax subsidy for homeownership, the mortgage interest deduction (MID).

New York Magazine expanded on the Post’s opinion on support for the Marxist Black Lives Matter political organization in the suburbs but included that that support comes from left-wing suburbanites, which it calls NIMBYs — Not in My Back Yard liberals:

The United States is full of lily-white, deep-blue suburbs with lawn signs that shout Black Lives Matter — and zoning laws that whisper, But preserving “neighborhood character” matters more.

When the conversation turns from abstract national questions to concrete local ones, however, white liberals are often more keen to acknowledge their privileges than to forfeit them. A 2018 survey experiment from Stanford University found that liberal homeowners tend to oppose increasing development in their communities, even when informed that such development progressively redistributes resources and opportunity to the disadvantaged. In some instances, this information about the distributional implications of increasing density actually reduced liberal homeowners’ support for more housing.

This experimental finding is buttressed by the actual housing policies of blue cities and suburbs throughout the United States. The affinity of many affluent Democrats for exclusionary zoning does not mean that their avowed liberalism is wholly fraudulent. Many NIMBY liberals enthusiastically support politicians who raise their taxes to fund social spending on the poor. But when asked to sacrifice more immediate and visceral privileges to their ideological commitments — by, say, supporting redistricting efforts that would force their kids to share classrooms with children from markedly lower socioeconomic backgrounds, or tolerating low-income housing developments that could theoretically impair the value of their homes (in the eyes of other racist, classist white people) — many an affluent white progressive discovers his inner Archie Bunker. Or else, such liberals delude themselves into believing that resisting new housing construction is some kind of populist stand against greedy real-estate developers, and/or that preserving single-family zoning will somehow aid the environment.

“NIMBY liberals want racially exclusionary zoning policies wrapped up in rhetoric about historical preservation, not Trump’s garish branding,” the magazine wrote.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.


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