The Bulwark Presents
The Triad by JVL

Trump vs. the Cities

July 5, 2019
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(John Moore/Getty Images)

Reader R.M. sent me a bit of war-gaming about Trump’s comments about how terrible American cities have become and I wanted to share them with you:

I wonder if there is more to be plumbed on the banter between Trump and Tucker Carlson on the comparative “filth’”of U.S. cities.

My take: Trump will again run a fear-based campaign that focuses on the binary choice between him and a Democratic opponent who he will brand as an America-hating socialist bent on the economic destruction of our country. It is confusing to many of us simple Midwestern voters that so much of the wealth and economic power in America resides in big cities (where the libs are), and that makes it hard for us to buy the idea that these city-types are so ignorant of those things which make for prosperity.

But what if we’ve been misled about what’s really going on in those far-away places?

As the most accomplished gas-lighter of our age, Trump will convince us that our major cities are overrun by crime, homelessness, filth and moral depravity as a result of their embrace of liberal values. Sacramento is overrun by illegals, Los Angeles by homelessness, Chicago is gripped by race-war, Portland subjugated to Antifa-Law, New York overrun by rats, etc.

I think Trump’s base will lap this up. Many who feel left-behind by the economic prosperity of our urban centers will be heartened to learn that in reality, those places are really unbearable shitholes. This will help rural voters to further distrust coastal elites and it will trigger those enlightened city-types to pull farther leftward in disgust.

I think we will see a lot more of this sowing-of-divisions between rural and urban worldviews as the months grind-on.

This seems very smart and it would not surprise me at all if it’s one of the major themes of 2020.

The only problem, as an electoral matter, is that it doesn’t look like a winning message.

Rural areas make up something like 97 percent of the U.S. land mass but account for less than 20 percent of the population. Urban areas—meaning dense urban hubs and their attendant suburbs—contain about70 percentof the population.

So maybe what Trump is looking to do is split exurban voters from urban voters. Or maybe it’s something else, like a dog-whistle on race.

Or maybe it’s just a thought that flitted into the president’s head because he saw a segment on Fox and it’ll go the way of birthright citizenship.