The cringe-worthy flaws in Trump's pitch to 'suburban housewives'

With polls showing Trump struggling among suburban voters, he's become obsessed with suburbs - or more to the point, keeping certain people out of suburbs.
Idyllic neighborhood on lakefront at dawn.
James Brey / Getty Images
By Steve Benen

For much of Donald Trump's presidency, he barely mentioned American suburbs. As we recently discussed, there was a grand total of one tweet that referenced the suburbs in his first three years in office, and according to the Factbase database, the Republican's presidential speeches also made little mention of suburban communities.

But with polls showing Trump and his party struggling badly among suburban voters, the president has quickly become obsessed with suburbs -- or more to the point, keeping certain people out of suburbs.

Take this presidential tweet, for example, from earlier today.

"The 'suburban housewife' will be voting for me. They want safety [and] 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!"

If the rhetoric sounds at all familiar, it's because Trump held a tele-event with supporters in Iowa two weeks ago, in which the Republican insisted that Democrats "want to abolish" American suburbs. He added that Democrats want "Cory Booker of New Jersey to run that program" -- an unidentified program that he claimed would reduce home prices and increase crime "substantially."

So let's take stock. Right off the bat, Trump's newfound interest in those he refers to as "suburban housewives" reflects a needlessly antiquated view of women, society, and modern gender roles. (Note, he could've gone with "suburban women," but he seems to prefer "suburban housewives." In related news, it's no longer 1950.)

As for the "program" the president finds so offensive, at issue is a policy called the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing rule (AFFH), which was designed to help implement provisions of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. As a Washington Post fact-check piece recently explained:

The rule, which was finalized in July 2015 and been in limbo since [Barack] Obama left office, is designed to push "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." Put simply, it was designed to help state and local officials provide better access to opportunity, following the original 1968 guideline.

Or put another way, what Trump has described as a policy intended to "abolish" suburbs is actually a federal rule designed to counter segregation in housing. It's a subject the Republican ought to know well: the Justice Department accused Trump of violating the Fair Housing Act several decades ago as part of the future president's discriminatory practices against African-American renters.

Has anyone raised the prospect of putting Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) -- whose name the president misspelled -- "in charge" of the fair-housing rule? No. It doesn't even make sense: U.S. senators are not responsible for implementing federal housing policies.

Trump may have referenced the New Jersey senator because Joe Biden has endorsed some Booker-backed ideas related to housing policy. Or maybe Trump is peddling nonsense related to Booker because he's the Senate's only Democratic Black man.

Either way, the idea that Booker will be "in charge" of or "running" a federal housing program is ridiculous.

But there was one phrase of particular interest in Trump's tweet: he believes he ended a program in which low-income housing "would invade" suburban communities. In reality, houses don't "invade" anything; people do.

And therein lies the point: the president seems to be under the impression that suburbs are filled with people who look like him, whom he hopes to scare by saying Democrats will "destroy" suburbs with people who don't look like him.

Trump's losing his re-election bid; he's failing to address a deadly pandemic; and he apparently thinks unsubtle racism will help keep him in power. It's as simple as that.