President Donald Trump says he wants to save the suburbs. First step: He needs to build a time machine to go back to the dated demographic he’s been talking about.
Trump has been bragging for two weeks about ending a looming wave of low-income housing allegedly about to wash over suburbia, imperiling “the American dream.”
It’s a racist, George Wallace-esque trope — the suburbs as white refuge under attack — that misses decades of demographic and political trends. Maybe that’s why the effort is falling flat.
“The ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “They want safety & are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood.”
Trump must not know that most parents work and how untrue that Leave It to Beaver depiction of family is.
He went on to claim former Vice President Joe Biden “would reinstall” the program and put in charge U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Black politician who made opposing housing discrimination part of his presidential campaign.
Asked at the White House on Wednesday to explain his talk of invasion, Trump alleged a Democratic effort to “destroy suburbia” and specifically linked that notion to Black, Asian, and Hispanic people moving to and living there.
This all tracks back to the Trump administration’s two weeks ago undoing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule put in place in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama, adding to the 1968 Fair Housing Act, passed to combat segregation and discrimination in housing.
The rule required local governments to study and address discrimination in housing. It did not set off a low-income suburban housing boom.
Trump, however, does have something to fear in Philly’s suburbs — voters who don’t want to see him win a second term.
The suburbs have steadily become more racially and ethnically diverse, and the “suburban housewife” is increasingly likely to speak Spanish, Arabic, or some other language. (More than 2.5 million people in the Philadelphia suburbs speak a language other than English, according to the Census Bureau.)
In eight years, from 2010 to 2018, the Philadelphia suburbs went from 80% white to 76%, according to the latest census estimates. And they’ve become better educated, too: The percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees is up from 41% in 2010 to 46% in 2018.
Democrats capitalized on that in the midterm elections two years ago. Clout suspects that is Trump’s real fear — of suburbia, not for it.
Heather Heidelbaugh’s first television commercial as the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania attorney general takes aim at the not-so-distant political ambitions of her incumbent opponent, Democrat Josh Shapiro.
“I’ll keep our community safe, keep politics out of the office, and serve my full term,” Heidelbaugh says to the camera, sticking the landing on that last phrase.
Shapiro is widely expected to run for governor in 2022 when Gov. Tom Wolf’s second term wraps up.
How widely? Clout asked Wolf about that future race for governor on Election Day last year. “That’s my guy there,” Wolf said, nodding toward Shapiro, who declined to comment about 2022.
Any hits Heidelbaugh lands on Shapiro in the 12 weeks between now and the Nov. 3 general election could, by proxy, help Toomey in a race two years from now. Her campaign said it’s spending $200,000 to air the ad on television in the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre media markets.
Shapiro’s camp, asked if he had ever promised to serve a full second term, responded: “The promise AG Shapiro makes is to wake up every day focused on protecting people over powerful special interests. There are too many important battles to wage right now to be speculating about what might happen in politics years from now.”
Shapiro holds a significant cash advantage, reporting $4.14 million in his campaign account as of June 22, while Heidelbaugh had $208,871.
Heidelbaugh is getting a boost from the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a political action committee founded and funded by conservative activists. The PAC, which gave her $50,000 in June, has booked $435,000 worth of air time to support her, according to the ad tracking firm website Advertising Analytics.
The rest of Heidelbaugh’s ad serves as an introduction to voters of a candidate who lacks strong name recognition. Her personal story is about overcoming early struggles in life.
“My dad left us when I was just 8,” she says. “I know what it’s like to grow up hungry, to go to bed cold, to get knocked down and to get back up. I understand the problems people face. And I know how to help.”
“Suburban housewives? Really? Women go to work. The average American family has two parents working, and that’s out of necessity and that’s out of talent and wanting to use your skills.”