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Trump and the Suburbs: 1950 Called

Last July, in a desperate attempt to create a lead, Trump addressed suburban women directly, in the same way Nixon did in the 1960: a threat to their homes. But his threats lost contact not only with reality, but also with voters. A feminist perspective on the US presidential election.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Translation: Tom Atkins

When former President Donald Trump said that “Suburban housewives” would vote for him in the 2020 election because they want “safety”, everyone reading his twits knew exactly what he meant: in the 1950s, families all across the US started flocking to the suburbs, in search of the Americn Dream: A house with a yard, a white picket fence, and of course – excellent public schools. These were white families, leaving racially diverse cities in favor of more monochrome communities.

The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article. Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2020

In 1968, Richard Nixon, then Republican candidate for president, addressed these white suburban families with talk of rampant violence in diverse cities. This terrorized white suburban families – of losing their green yards and white fences, and mainly – of losing their homogeneous communities. For his part, Nixon promised to promote “law and order.” He never said “black” or “white,” but everyone knew exactly what he meant – and it worked. Suburbia voted Republican, and Nixon was elected president.

US voting is traditionally geographical: the large, diverse cities usually vote Democrat, and the rural (and mostly white) areas vote Republican. For many years, the suburbs too voted for the Republicans.

With the presidential race so close, Trump addressed white suburban women directly. But the way he did it didn’t quite fit with the spirit of the time: while in the 1950s, most suburban women were homemakers and had no other job, for many years now women have careers. Some do choose to stay at home with a newborn baby, or take a break from their careers for various reasons, but the large majority of American suburban women today are in the job market – among other reasons, because it has become impossible to live on one salary in the USA.

Another problem is that the suburbs have long stopped being the place young Donald Trump knew in the seventies. Their demographics have changed markedly and nowadays they’re much closer to reflecting the ethnic makeup of the entire country. In the suburbs of Seattle, for example, the highest percentage of homemakers is among Latina and Asian women.

Because of Changing Demographics, The Suburbs are no Longer a Republican Stronghold  And Would not Necessarily Vote Trump.

In August, Trump twitted that suburban housewives would vote for him because “they want safety” and “are thrilled” that he ended the plans for low income which would have “invaded their neighborhood” – a plan he  warns Biden would reinstate. We can now see the racist threat hidden in that twit: Trump warns the “housewives” that “low income” – a dog-whistle meaning black and Latino – families would “invade” their neighborhood, threaten the safety of white women and fill their clean neighborhoods with “affordable” homes – again, meaning non-white. By “plan” Trump is referring to AFFH, the 2015 provision for the Fair Housing act, announced under Obama’s administration. The law required authorities to analyze and rectify any race and class housing inequalities.  Trump rescinded the law, and on July started acting towards its complete elimination. It was also no coincidence that the twit mentioned Cory Booker, the African-American US Senator for New Jersey and 2019 presidential candidate who, as mayor of Newark, pushed for affordable housing and integrated communities.

In the 2016 presidential election, more than half of white women voted for Trump. Now he’s trying to recreate that victory. However, a survey conducted in September gave Biden a 21% lead among women. In addition, only a third of the women who voted for Trump in 2016 said they would do so again.

These threats might not work anymore. Perhaps white women can’t be terrorized in the same way they were by Nixon. They’re not concerned of low income invading their neighborhoods, but have real concerns, ones related to the Corona virus and Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic. And from an economic perspective – how will they pay the mortgage? How would their children go to school this year? Who would stay home with them?

The suburbs have long since lost their once white identity, and very few women would agree to be defined as “suburban women,” not to mention “suburban housewives.” Over on Twitter, for example, this moniker has become a joke, a symbol of Trump’s racism and misogyny and his desire to set women, along with other sectors of the population, back.  In the words of CNN’s Dana Bash: ”1950 called”

Watch: a real callback to the 1950s – living the American dream in suburbia:

Headline photo: Amy Siskind reacts to Trump over Twitter.


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