On Monday, President Trump did an interview with Fox's Laura Ingraham that has incited reactions from both parties. After comparing police shootings to golfing (yes, really), the president went on to shamelessly attack Sen. Cory Booker.
While echoing one of his most popular talking points that Joe Biden's potential presidency as an impending socialist nightmare, Trump specifically named Booker as one of the people that will help Biden do it. And it seems the death of the American suburb is one of many perceived collateral damages that Trump believes is all but guaranteed in that scenario. “So you have this beautiful community in the suburbs, including women. Right? Women. They want security,” Trump began. “I ended where they build low-income housing projects right in the middle of your neighborhood. I ended it. If Biden gets in, he already said it’s going to go at a much higher rate than ever before. And you know who’s going to be in charge of it? Cory Booker.” Trump continued, adding that stock markets and 401ks will inevitably falter and dwindle as a result, with Booker apparently taking the heat for all of this should Biden win the November election.
But it's not so surprising that Trump has aimed his attacks on Booker — the New Jersey Senator has a long history of fighting for affordable housing. In fact, during his 2020 presidential run, it was a central platform of his campaign. The plan proposed utilizing tax credits for renters who spent more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income on rent and incentives for cities to provide affordable housing. This is an issue close to Booker’s heart from his own experience.
“Fifty years ago this month, a couple and their young family were looking to move into a neighborhood in New Jersey with great public schools, but real estate agents refused to sell them a home because of the color of their skin,” Booker wrote in an op-ed published in the Reno Gazette Journal. “[Local activists] stood up against the illegal housing discrimination the couple faced — and they won. The couple’s names were Cary and Carolyn Booker — my parents." Though Booker has endorsed Biden, and Booker is a popular pick for Biden's Housing and Urban Development Secretary, there has been no mention of him joining Biden's cabinet should he get elected.
But Trump's attack on Booker is much more than just his role in the affordable housing arena — pundits remain critical of the president for aiming to make Booker, a Black man, the face of his "nightmare" scenario. In fact, Trump’s biggest nightmare that he is peddling is that the most horrible thing he can think of happening to America is that a Black man with a history of fighting for fair and affordable housing gets to do so with greater influence. The subtext of what he is saying to his prospective voters is clear: Do you really want a Black man saying who can live in your suburbs?
What Trump is leaving out is that fair and affordable housing legislation isn’t only for Black people. It is about equitable access for all people. "President Trump is trying to cloak fair housing under this guise of keeping the suburbs safe from 'those low-income people'," National Fair Housing Alliance's President, Lisa Rice told CNN "It's almost as if he's assuming that all Black people live in low-income house or that low-income housing is just for Black people," Rice noted that fair housing programs are about preventing all types of discrimination whether that be discrimination against people with children or people with disabilities, among other reasons. It is about the equitable opportunity and access for all, but it suits Trump’s reelection campaign to make it about race.
During the interview, Trump also tried to use the appeal of retaining white suburbs by calling it a safety issue "for women." Painting a picture of a crime-ridden hellscape, Trump lamented the loss of the suburban dream, with Booker as the face of it. “They want low-income housing and with that comes a lot of other problems including crime. It may not be nice to say, but I’ll say it,” Trump told Ingraham.
Trump’s fear-mongering around an outdated concept of picket-fenced, all-white safe haven suburbs is just another racist rhetoric that has emboldened his followers. But for the “law and order” president that he deems himself to be, his dig at a Black senator is only sowing more division.