Urban Dynamics Blog

Can Trump save America’s cities from the progressives?

By Matt Johnson

On Friday, January 20th, Donald J. Trump will take the oath of the office of the President of the United States of America. And when he does, he will be taking on the urban legacy that has long haunted both democratic and republican presidents and their respective policies. That is, he will be challenged to address the reality of economic, political, and social discrepancies between American groups in the urban environment. Or as these groups are called in the vernacular: black and white.

He will be contending with past policies set by policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels. These policies include redlining (geographical partitioning), educational access, political disenfranchisement, and economic partitioning of resources. The residual effects of these past policies still resonate in today’s urban systems.

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He will also be contending with the current duality of policies set by policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels. That is, the preferred set of policies pushed by both major parties: the democrats and the republicans. Make no mistake, each team pushes a preferred agenda no matter if it is good or bad, or effective or ineffective.

For example, the Minneapolis City Council, along with the approval of Mayor Betsy Hodges, passed a resolution in a recent city council meeting

…supporting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Minneapolis and calling on other Minnesota communities to support a national effort to resettle the country’s most vulnerable refugees.

And of course, the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor aren’t the only city policy makers to support such a resolution.

In September of 2015, 18 city mayors sent President Obama a letter indicating their support for his willingness to open the United States doors to Syrian refugees. They also stipulated their interest in accepting refugees in their cities. As the mayors explained,

We commend your decision to open America’s doors to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees displaced by civil war…we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your Administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement.

However, as the reader knows, President-elect Trump has taken a contrasting approach to the Syrian refugee challenge; and in some ways, city policy makers are doubling their efforts in preparation for a Trump presidency.

Of course, this is but one of the many issues that separates the policies of an eventual President Trump administration and the policies of urban law makers. Trump will have to contend with and answer for his contentious presidential run. It is not a reach to say that urban law makers, who are mostly democrats and progressives, view the 45th president as a racist, bigoted, sexist, homophobe.

And it really doesn’t matter if these accusations are true or not. The fact of the matter is there are a lot of people who believe the charges and many of those people are policy makers. So even if Trump acknowledges economic, political, and social disparities and legitimately wants to do something about it, he’ll have to play against how people perceive him. And coming from the left, it’s not promising.

Considering the current state of Trump’s relationship with the left and the variety of economic, political, and social discrepancies, the President-elect’s best option is to go for the long ball. That is, if he really wants to differentiate himself from his predecessors and win over groups of people who mostly voted against him in this recent election, he’ll have to propose a Marshall Plan, i.e., nation building in the backyard of the United States.

This would put the onus on city law makers. Trump would make them choose between the welfare of their constituents, and the party narrative and how they currently perceive the President-elect.

And so the questions are posed. If Trump proposes such a plan (and we know he plays by his own rules), would urban policy makers accept it or would they play a game of mental gymnastics and perpetuate their own confirmation bias at the expense of their own constituents?

Indeed! One doesn’t know for sure what Trump will do. He writes and performs his own songs. But if this happens, Trump could change the balance of power in a lot of cities. He would be doing something that no other president before him has done; and he would be contradicting the narrative – remember the narrative.

And considering many democrats and progressives don’t understand him, or even know what to do with him, they are facing the ‘urban progressives Trump dilemma’ and they don’t even know it. However, until he makes that move, it’ll still be his urban problem.

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 

Photo credit: michellesmirror.com



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2 replies »

    • Thanks for your post, Tom! I appreciate it. However, could you be a bit more specific than “first things first?” In other words, could you define the meaning of “first things first” and explain why he couldn’t be wrong for using it?


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