The idea of American suburbs never lined up with reality, and the 2020 election proved it

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In October, President Donald Trump made a plea to suburban voters: “Suburban women, will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?”

But these same suburbs may have handed the election to President-elect Joe Biden.

One New York Times piece, titled “How the Suburbs Moved Away From Trump,” details how already-blue suburbs turned bluer, and red ones got a little bit more purple.

And a report out of the American Communities Project found that, while Trump still held “blue-collar Middle Suburbs,” he lost two percentage points there. The biggest suburban loss for Trump came in the exurbs; the president still won them, but Biden gained a six-point margin.

It’s just another nail in the coffin for the traditional idea of a suburb, which once included a white-picket fence, a manicured lawn, and a quintessential caricature of a housewife. It signals the rise of a voting bloc that politicians should keep a close eye on.

It also gets at a more existential question over what a suburb is, and what suburbs can tell us about the changing demographics — and political values — of America.

“A majority of Americans live in the suburbs, and the suburbs of large metros are changing demographically more than other types of places,” Jed Kolko, the chief economist of Indeed, told Insider. He said suburbs “are crucial to any national election strategy.”

Will Wilkinson, the vice president for research at the moderate-leaning think tank Niskanen Center and a New York Times contributor, told Insider that the country’s model of suburbs versus cities is predicated on what suburbs were in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s — “creatures of white flight from the urban cores.”

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Wilkinson, who has written extensively on the link between population density, urbanism, and political polarization, said: “There’s this whole history of integrating the schools and busing, and a lot of white people fled to the suburbs to basically segregate themselves. And that still dominates a lot of people’s implicit conception of the suburbs.”

But that conception has “just become wrong” in 2020, he said.

What the suburban vote will mean moving forward

“It makes sense that elections are going to turn on the suburbs, because that’s where the most people are,” Wilkinson said. More than half of Americans consider the suburbs to be their home.

So while appealing to the people of the suburbs is a solid political strategy, it’s crucial for candidates to understand who those people are.

In the 2020 campaign, Trump attempted to appeal to the anxiety surrounding the traditional white, suburban ideal by rolling back a key plank of housing reform meant to mitigate the racial wealth gap: the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. The 2015 policy was designed to “overcome historic patterns of segregation” and “foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination,” the HUD website said prior to Trump’s deregulation push. Trump claimed the rule would diminish property values and increase crime.

Wilkinson said Trump is “operating on that kind of older conception of the suburbs as …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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