You can infer from the headline to this article in the Washington Post that President Trump’s focus on Joe Biden’s “war on the suburbs” has potential as a campaign issue. “Trump uses fear to tout repeal of housing rule,” the headline declares (paper edition). The housing rule in question is “affirmatively furthering fair housing” (AFFH).
Using fear is the rule, not the exception, with political themes. When the left, including the Washington Post, claims that police officers often kill blacks without justification, it is invoking, or creating, the fear that blacks are in mortal danger from the police. When Democrats, along with the Post, kept insisting that President Trump colluded with Russia, they promoted the fear that Trump was selling out America to the Ruskies. When the Post peddles its “democracy dies in darkness” line, it mongers in fear that Trump will kill our democracy.
The question to ask in these cases isn’t whether politicians, polemicists, and journalists are using fear. The question is whether the fear being mooted is justified.
Trump wasn’t colluding with the Russians. Nor has he attacked democracy. These fears are groundless.
By contrast, fear of AFFH is justified. For example, pursuant to AFFH, Dubuque, Iowa was required to provide low income housing to residents of Chicago, some 200 miles away. The Obama administration forced Dubuque to give these out-of-staters preference for affordable housing over needy residents of the town, many of whom had been providing Dubuque with tax revenue for decades.
Similarly, Westchester County, New York was coerced into agreeing to build 750 “affordable housing units,” 650 of which would be in municipalities with less than 3 percent African-American population and less than 7 percent Hispanic population. In addition, Westchester County agreed to advertise its affordable housing units to people living outside the County. The Obama administration’s Department of HUD insisted on this deal even though Westchester County had not been accused of engaging in housing discrimination.
The Washington Post article about Trump “using fear” to tout his repeal of AFFH makes no effort to show that the president’s statements about what AFFH entails are factually incorrect. Instead, the Post, characterizing AFFH as nothing more than an “anti-segregated housing rule,” complains that Trump’s line of attack is, you guessed it, racist.
But if it’s racist for suburbanites to want to reside in low density communities and have zoning decisions made by their elected officials rather than the feds, then almost everyone I know in my suburb — every liberal and the few conservatives around here — is a racist.
And that’s why the left, including the Post, fears Trump’s AFFH line of attack on Biden. The people in suburban Washington D.C., where I live, are going to vote against Trump no matter what. But if folks in the suburbs of cities like Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, Houston, and Philadelphia come to understand that Biden is committed to radically transforming housing and transportation patterns where they live, more than a few of them might well reconsider their support for the former vice president.
The Post’s article insists this won’t happen — that Trump’s claims about AFFH won’t move the needle. It relies on the opinion of political analyst Amy Walter.
Walter is a respected analyst. Did she predict Trump’s victory in 2016, though? Not that I recall.
Walter might be right that suburbanites will shrug off Trump’s claims about what Biden has in store for the suburbs. History suggests that this election will be mostly a referendum on the incumbent. But read the Post’s article — which appeared on the front page — and see whether you agree with me that the authors protest too much, and that the paper actually is worried that Trump has found an issue with the potential to resonate with suburban voters.