President Donald Trump is at war with America’s most vibrant and diverse cities, according to a Washington Post op-ed published over the weekend.
Written by Vox’s “Big Idea columnist” Will Wilkinson, the op-ed argues that Trump is “demonizing” the real engine of America by criticizing urban areas.
Needless to say, the essay is just the latest attempt to invoke the greatness of diversity and shame Trump supporters for disagreeing.
Wilkinson believes that Trump’s rhetoric about cities helped him win the election by pitting left-behind “white America” against vibrant “new America.”
“He connected with these voters by tracing their economic decline and their fading cultural cachet to the same cause: traitorous ‘coastal elites’ who sold their jobs to the Chinese while allowing America’s cities to become dystopian Babels, rife with dark-skinned danger — Mexican rapists, Muslim terrorists, ‘inner cities’ plagued by black violence,” the Vox writer argues. “He intimated that the chaos would spread to their exurbs and hamlets if he wasn’t elected to stop it.”
The op-ed then goes on to extol the superiority of city life over that of Trump’s America and looks forward to the day the nation is no longer majority-white. The writer insists that diversity is one of the secret ingredients to urban achievement — even leading to an improvement of public safety.
Wilkinson cites data that suggests a correlation between high immigration to cities and a decrease in crime. He also points to an FBI study that shows sanctuary counties have lower crime than similar non-sanctuary counties.
Of course, causation does not equal correlation, and it would be hard to prove safeguarding illegal immigrants lowers crime. Left out of this discussion of lower crime is mention of tougher policing and mandatory sentencing, which have also increased in the same years immigration has as well.
This immigration-friendly attitude underlies Wilkinson’s preferred, “inclusive” form of American national identity.
“There is no American national identity apart from the dynamic hybrid culture we have always been creating together,” he writes. “America’s big cities accept this and grow healthier and more productive by the day, while the rest of the country does not accept this, and struggles.”
Wilkinson calls for an “inclusive national identity” and urges cities to become “sanctuaries of the American idea — of openness, tolerance and trade — until our country has been made safe for freedom again.”
He upholds cities like Denver, Seattle and Chicago as places where diversity is given the chance to show how its superior to stale white America. A problem with the cities he holds up as examples of diversity aren’t quite as “open” as it appears.
Denver, a city Wilkinson contrasts positively to Trump’s dying white America, is still majority non-Hispanic white. Additionally, most of the city’s Hispanics consider themselves white — with Denver’s total white population being 77 percent. It also has a remarkably low number of African-Americans, at 11 percent, compared to other urban areas.
Seattle, a sanctuary city with a large Asian-American population, is also whiter than the rest of America. Over 66 percent of the city is non-Hispanic white, compared to 62 percent for the rest of the nation. Only six percent of Seattle’s population is Hispanic and has even fewer African-Americans than Denver at 8 percent.
Chicago is a city that boasts diversity in its demographics and is not majority non-Hispanic white. However, it is also considered one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. and has a serious crime problem more in keeping with trends of the 1990s than today.
Maybe these cities aren’t exactly fulfilling the great promise of diversity.
It is undeniably true that urban areas are in better economic shape than Trumpland — as cities have been throughout history — but it’s not clear what role a diverse demographic plays in that success.
The heart of Wilkinson’s argument is that the success of supposedly diverse cities over less diverse, mostly white rural areas proves that everyone should embrace the future offered to us by “coastal elites.” We’ll all be much stronger and happier if we just accept their vision of a diverse technocracy, and America’s inclusive identity will make us a more unified nation
There’s a few problems with this assertion. For one, Wilkinson doesn’t really address how the urban technocracy is going to help out the disenchanted elements of society that voted for Trump, other than saying that they will do so with their great, unnamed policies.
At least Wilkinson wants to help Trump’s America instead of hoping it suffers and dies out like some of his progressive colleagues.
The next issue is that Wilkinson fails to consider the cultural and social impacts that comes with an “inclusive” American identity centered pretty much entirely around diversity. As evidenced by the last election, Middle Americans are not happy with the rapid social transformation overtaking the country.
Recent examples of this transformation include high school students having to apologize for wearing American flag gear at sporting events — in America, founding fathers being tossed into the dustbin of contempt, and the mainstreaming of concepts like white privilege.
All of these trends are designed solely to tell Trump’s America that the nation they grew up loving was bad and they need to submit to the New America. If you think otherwise, than you’re a racist.
Yes, the cities are thriving, but as Wilkinson notes in agreement with Trump adviser Steve Bannon, a nation is more than an economy. And for Trump voters, their interests aren’t solely economic. They don’t recognize the liberal urban utopias as places that they feel they belong, or even want to belong.
They like the old America and would like to preserve it. It at least offered them a decent job and didn’t lecture them to check their white privilege.
Additionally, it’s not clear how America will remain a harmonious whole when we’re not even allowed to rally behind our national symbols and historical greats. What flags are we going to be waving when certain identity groups tell us the stars and stripes are offensive?
There’s the assumption throughout Wilkinson’s piece that we are all just going to get along the more diverse we are. But the current trend of identity politics is not about unity, it’s about division and conflict.
Today’s identity politics encourages minority groups to agitate for their own interests against an allegedly oppressive majority. This political style separates and defines Americans into conflicting groups. New America doesn’t really offer much of a unifying identity for newcomers or old-timers to adhere to, other than an indomitable admiration for the other and an unquenchable desire for money.
In this identity-saturated political climate, immigrants learn that there is more to gain by upholding their own culture instead of having to assimilate to America’s traditional national fabric.
Wilkinson’s much-loved urban centers present more of the negative effects of this balkanization than its benefits.
As mentioned previously, some of the cities the writer cites as paragons of diversity are actually extremely segregated and not models of social harmony. Americans of different backgrounds, ethnicities and skin colors aren’t exactly coming together in a melting pot in these cities — they’re secluded off to their own sections. At the same time, white liberals are able to pat themselves on the back for having so much diversity around without having to really experience it.
Maybe that’s why Trump voters are leery of a future that tells them to leave their past behind and submit to the leadership of urban technocrats.