The System: Zak Cheney-Rice
New York magazine|October 26– November 08, 2020
The System: Zak Cheney-Rice
White Houses Two visions of the suburbs are on the ballot. Both are myths.

TO UNDERSTAND THE SUBURBS as imagined by Donald Trump and Joe Biden, you first have to understand that neither of them is really talking about the suburbs. They are talking about segregation. “Suburbs are by and large integrated,” Biden claimed at the first presidential debate in Ohio. He was responding to Trump’s warning that the “suburbs would be gone” under a Biden presidency, crushed under the weight of “problems like you’ve never seen before.” Trump’s evocation of suburban decline has become a theme of his reelection campaign. As his job-approval ratings have fallen and Biden maintains a healthy lead over him in national polls, the president has found himself grasping for proof that the foundational pitch of his presidency still has merit—that he’s the only candidate who can guarantee safety for white Americans.

Twenty-two million jobs lost and more than 220,000 Americans dead show that he’s not a credible steward of public safety. But he remains a credible racist, and his vow to preserve white housing exclusivity rings truer than most he has made. Suburbia has become shorthand for this commitment.

Trump’s suburban idyll is the kind of single-family-zoned neighborhood that was the prototypical white-flight sanctuary half a century ago in metro areas like Atlanta, a site of recent condemnation and entreatment for the president. But these suburbs, once reliably conservative strongholds, are changing their complexion. They are why Georgia looks like contested political ground, a red state trending purple, where both the 2020 U.S. Senate race between GOP incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff and the presidential race between Biden and Trump are polling toss-ups. Understanding what has changed in the past half-century, and what hasn’t, gives us a clearer idea of what to expect after the final vote is cast in November.


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October 26– November 08, 2020