PORTLAND, Maine – Donald Trump is running for re-election against immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims, blacks, socialists, free-traders and purveyors of paper straws.He is running against the Clintons, the Mooch, George Soros, Robert Mueller and the ghost of John McCain. He is running against the intelligentsia, the media, the Deep State and the Federal Reserve. He is running against gun control, abortion, universal health care, political correctness, clean energy and simple eloquence.Now Trump has a new enemy in his escalation of the cultural wars: Urban America.In a country where nearly two-thirds live in cities, this is a big target. But Trump, a native of Queens and lifelong Manhattanite, is unrelenting.“I’m very embarrassed by what I see in some of our cities,” the president says. He has attacked “the horrible, disgusting conditions” of Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and San Juan, Puerto Rico, among others.He reserves special disdain for Baltimore; in some 30 tweets he called it a “very dangerous and filthy place” where “no human being would want to live … disgusting and rat-infested.”He reserves special disdain for Baltimore; in some 30 tweets he called it a ‘very dangerous and filthy place’ where ‘no human being would want to live.’Of Elijah Cummings, an African-American and chair of the House Oversight Committee (which is investigating him,) he exclaimed: “The Baltimore house of Elijah Cummings was robbed. Too bad!”Trump is targeting urban areas because he is unpopular there; a recent poll shows his level of approval in cities is 33 per cent. In rural America, to which his message is pitched, it is 62 per cent.So, playing to the prejudices of his loyalists, he goes after cities – a byword for Democrats (who largely run them) and visible minorities (who largely fill them). Denigrating cities is key to his strategy of divide and rule.Related
Of course, Trump’s view of America dates from the time Americans landed on the Moon and partied at Woodstock. Rather than in a state of decline, America’s cities today are enjoying a renaissance.This begins with the revival of city centres, which were abandoned by the white middle class in their flight to the suburbs in the 1960s. Inner cities were overtaken by drugs, gangs, prostitution, poverty, fear and hopelessness.For a generation, this was the story of urban America – particularly Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.The Combat Zone in Boston, Anacostia in DC, the South Side of Chicago, Times Square and Alphabet City in New York, Watts in Los Angeles – all were emblems of urban collapse. This was the shame of the world’s richest country.In fact, if had Trump been making his argument a half-century ago, he would have been right. He isn’t now.Today the story of America’s cities is vision, resiliency, growth, wealth and innovation. It is the unsung national phenomenon of the last two decades.Everyone knows about the revival of New York, which was nearly bankrupt in the 1970s, from the creation of the High Line to the re-emergence of Harlem. Or the greening of Boston, with the burying of aerial expressways and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. And the transformation of Pittsburgh – once an emblem of the rust-belt – into a hub of culture, industry and knowledge, which some call the most livable city in the country.In downtown Los Angeles, Grand Central Market attracts shoppers, the Central Library attracts readers and Grand Avenue attracts patrons of the arts with museums and concert halls.Downtown Washington is younger, hipper, safer and livelier. From Apple’s reimagining of the Carnegie Library to the edgy Union Market to the breezy Nationals Park, the city is surging.This renaissance has even lifted Detroit. The Tigers play downtown, the Detroit Institute of Arts is reborn, Greektown thrives, art deco towers gleam and the abandoned train station is being recast as a technology campus for Ford. The Motor City is coming back.Urban America in not Utopia; gentrification has chased out the poor and minorities and education is uneven, while shocking violence afflicts Chicago and New Orleans, as well as other places.Rather than ridicule cities, though, Donald Trump should celebrate their rebirth. They make America great again.Andrew Cohen is a journalist, professor and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.ALSO IN CITIZEN OPINIONS: Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in OttawaToday’s letters: Long-term care under the spotlightDreessen: Neighbourhood plans are the key to quality of life. Will Ottawa’s next Official Plan respect this?