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Aerial view of single family homes in a residential neighborhood
A residential neighborhood in San Marcos, Texas, on March 12.Jordan Vonderhaar / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Four years later, Trump’s rhetoric about U.S. suburbs gets worse

Four years after Donald Trump said Joe Biden intended to "abolish" American suburbs, the Republican is recycling the claim. It's worse now.


Four years ago, Donald Trump went to outlandish lengths to warn voters that the future of American suburbs was at stake in the 2020 presidential election. Over the weekend, the Republican recycled the line during a rally in New Jersey, and he added a rhetorical flourish.

“I will also stop Joe Biden’s sinister plan to abolish the suburbs,” the former president declared. “He’s trying to abolish the suburbs in your state — and we’re not going to let him to do it.”

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, President Biden has unveiled a blueprint intended to lower housing costs, but the idea that the Democratic incumbent has a “sinister plan to abolish the suburbs” is obviously bonkers.

It’s also oddly familiar.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, for much of Trump’s White House tenure, he barely mentioned American suburbs. 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 2020 polls showing Trump and his party struggling in the suburbs, the then-president quickly became obsessed with suburbs — or more to the point, keeping certain people out of suburbs.

In August 2020, the Republican went so far as to insist that Biden intended to allow low-income housing to “invade” suburban neighborhoods, adding that Biden intended to put Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey “in charge” of the initiative. It was around the same time that Trump told voters that Democrats “want to abolish” American suburbs.

What was old is new again.

As for the policy Trump finds so outrageous, 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 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.)

As for Trump’s reference to Booker, the idea that the New Jersey senator would be responsible for implementing federal housing policies never made any sense, though it was certainly of interest that the Republican peddled a strange claim involving the only Democratic Black man in the Senate at the time while trying to appeal to suburban voters.

Four years later, the idea that Biden and his party intend to “abolish” suburbs has obviously been proven false. And yet, there was Trump over the weekend, once again trying to get people to believe the same discredited idea.

Coming soon to an attack ad near you.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.