US President Donald Trump speaks as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2020 en route to Texas.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday made one of his most overt appeals so far in the campaign to White, suburban voters, saying in a tweet that they will no longer be “bothered” by low income housing in their suburbs.
The tweets come as polls show Trump’s reelection effort is faltering in the suburbs, fueled by his administration’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic, the ensuing recession, and Trump’s aggressive opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, which polls show most suburban voters support.
Trump’s tweet refers to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, an Obama administration update to the 1968 civil rights legislation, the Fair Housing Act. The rule required local governments receiving federal funds for housing and development to account for biased practices and craft a plan to fix them.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced that it was replacing the fair housing rule with its own rule, one it dubbed “Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice.”
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said the Obama-era rule “proved to be complicated, costly and ineffective.”
“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,” Carson said in a press release at the time.
Yet studies have shown for decades that concentrating low-income families into small geographic areas — one consequence of the urban housing projects built in the 1960s and 1970s — only serves to exacerbate the difficulties that poor residents face.
More recent research has also shown that one of the most successful ways to help low-income families get good educations for their children and integrate into the middle class is by actively integrating low-income housing into middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods.
But for Trump, an incumbent president behind in the polls, fierce opposition to integrating low-income housing is about much more than just zoning policy.
Wednesday’s tweets mark an escalation in Trump’s ongoing effort to stoke fear in suburban voters that poor urban residents, who are overwhelmingly people of color, will move to their suburbs if low-income housing is permitted to be built in single-family home neighborhoods.
In an election year defined by a pandemic, a financial crisis, and a racial justice movement, Trump’s appeal to White suburban voters are a key part of his campaign strategy.
Trump’s line of attack has been condemned by Democrats and by some Republicans, who say it echoes racist appeals made to White voters during the Civil Rights era.
Not only is this strategy drawing condemnation from across the political spectrum, according to polls, it’s also failing.
A recent Fox News poll showed Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 11 points nationwide among suburban voters. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released July 19 revealed a similar spread, with Trump down 9 points in the suburbs to Biden.
Despite these ominous numbers, Trump has so far rejected advice from campaign strategists who have urged him to expand his base of support by appealing to more moderate Republicans, especially women. Instead, Trump has doubled down on racist and divisive messages, aiming them directly at the very women that surveys show are not receptive to overtly racial appeals.
In the past month, the president has also defended Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag, and he has threatened to veto a Defense bill that would rename military bases currently named for Confederate soldiers.
CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.