More than 55 percent of America lives in suburbs, neither central urban centers (currently awash in violent protests) nor the vast, rolling, red block that is rural America. Neither uniformly Democrat nor Republican, America’s suburbs may decide 2020. President Trump knows it, and so do leading Democrats. On the merits, suburbs should go for Trump, but will they?
Politics is crazy business, especially in the suburbs. A 2018 Pew research study reported that, while registered voters in urban counties favored Democrats and those in rural counties favored Republicans, suburbs were almost exactly split, and regionally influenced. Thus, New England suburbs tilted 57 percent Democratic, southern suburbs tilted 56 percent Republican.
Overall, the voting population is growing older – especially in suburbs. A 2020 Pew survey noted, we are seeing an “important long-term trend” in “overall aging of the electorate,” plus accelerated aging of the suburban electorate. “In 2020, nearly a quarter of the electorate (23 percent) will be ages 65 and older, the highest such share since 1970.” See, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/essay/an-early-look-at-the-2020-electorate/
Moreover, while rural America has a higher percentage of older voters, “the 65-and-older population has grown 39 percent in the suburbs since 2000,” as against 26 percent urban and 22 percent rural. See, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/02/5-facts-about-u-s-suburbs/.
Does that matter? Well, yes. Older voters tend to vote more conservative and reliably, thus an increasing percentage of suburban voters over 65 may favor Trump. As Pew reported, “since older adults are more likely to turn out to vote, it is possible that older generations will form a larger share of actual voters in 2020 than their share in the electorate.” Notably, that happened in 2016. In key states, older voters made the difference.
What else is afoot? Issues of significance to suburban America are front and center. For starters, suburban voters do not want to see rolling, raucous, urban violence spreading to the suburbs.
This is exactly the fear that brought out suburban voters in 1972, during similar social unrest. That year – like now – Democrats shifted hard left. They nominated a candidate in George McGovern who did not align with their party, nor with Independents. He seemed unprepared. Richard Nixon won in a landslide.
Another factor of significance to suburbs may be border security, the absence of which produced “sanctuary cities” and raised tax burdens under Obama-Biden. Weak borders also produced elevated drug trafficking, addiction, and overdoses, which hit suburbs the hardest.
In 2016, suburban counties saw 36,424 fatal drug overdoses, up 22 percent from the prior year – and orders of magnitude beyond Bush 43 days, according to CDC. That amounted to 21 overdose deaths per 100,000 in the suburbs, compared with 18.7 and 18.5 in rural and urban counties.
Under Trump, overdose numbers improved, but issue remains critical. In 2018, 35 percent of suburban residents agreed that “drug addiction is a major problem in their local community.” See, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/02/5-facts-about-u-s-suburbs/.
Notably, Trump took the issue on immediately, appointing a highest level “Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis,” which offered concrete recommendations for improvement, many of which became law by executive and legislative action. See, e.g., https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trumps-opioid-task-force-becoming-a-reality.
Of growing significance are hidden issues – which may adversely affect suburban America. For example, while the national media downplays Biden’s plan to push multi-unit housing wholesale into single-family suburban communities across the country, the reality is hard to miss – and has major implications.
Accordingly, one recent article called out, “Biden’s disastrous plans for America’s suburbs.” The author explained Biden’s plan “to ramp up an Obama-era social engineering scheme called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing …” That plan would “force suburban towns with single-family homes and minimum lot sizes to build high-density affordable housing smack in the middle of their leafy neighborhoods,” without regard to “local preferences and local control.” See, https://nypost.com/2020/07/21/joe-bidens-disastrous-plans-for-americas-suburbs/#:~:text=Biden%E2%80%99s%20plan%20is%20to%20force%20suburban%20towns%20with,%E2%80%94%20local%20preferences%20and%20local%20control%20be%20damned.
In effect, suburbs would fall to urban planning, become densely populated with federally subsidized multi-family units in the name of “social justice” – affecting property values, public health, safety, and education. Notably, the voting profile of suburban communities would also shift – toward blue. See, https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2020/07/democrats_on_the_brink_of_canceling_suburbia.html; https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-says-biden-would-abolish-the-suburbs-and-replace-it-with-socialist-nightmare.
That is Biden’s plan for America’s suburbs, a “balanced housing” formula, replacing established property rights with publicly financed urbanization of single-family communities. Why? The rationale is to federalize suburbia, relocate “low-income minorities” to advance “social justice,” and “better use” private land to end “climate change.” Obama started, Trump reversed, and Biden would reverse Trump.
Now consider the push – by Democrats nationally, urban, and suburban – to “defund the police.” While community-by-community review of policing policies, practices and disciplinary actions is appropriate, wholesale – federally leveraged – defunding of police is as crazy today, as the first time announced. Crime is spiking in countless cities, threatening overflow into suburbs. Cutting police? Just absurd.
To these suburban concerns, add another – the economy. By early 2020, Trump had – despite endless political ankle-biting – cut regulations and taxes, set economic records, helped suburbs and cities.
Prior to the China-origin virus, Trump created record growth, labor participation, employment, income, wages, and opportunities in every major demographic. The open question is – once the virus fades – who will do that again, sluggish Biden or economic powerhouse Trump? The answer seems clear.
Net-net, America’s suburbs will play an outsized role in 2020’s election cycle. Law and order, properly funded law enforcement, public health and safety, respect for property, home ownership, education, and economic growth – will weigh heavy on America’s suburbs. While nothing is certain, a rational balance of self-interest and public interest would suggest, on the merits, suburbs go Trump. That said, politics is crazy business.