Thursday, December 22, 2016

Trump And Fortress Suburbia

A classic tale of fear in fortress suburbia from Patton Oswalt's youth

There is this narrative going around that "Trump voters" are all "traditional" rural folk feeling embattled by changing times, lost jobs, etc. While Trump did very well among rural whites, those people are a small part of the electorate. He got over the top (at least by the standards of the electoral college) by winning suburbia. According to the Miami Herald, his performance among suburban whites won him Florida, and by extension, practically the entire election.

With Democrats dominating in the cities and Republicans in the country, suburbia has long been the crucial swing zone, and Trump won it. This was in large part due to his campaign of fear, which tapped into the fundamental underpinnings of suburbia itself.

American suburbia is a fortress zone. It is set up to allow certain people in, and others out. It is what helps maintain the racial and economic segregation of schools and housing in this country, and which thus maintains the most pernicious aspects of institutional racism. In most of white suburbia there is a constant fear of encroachment, that the tidal wave of "inner city" migration will hit their town and destroy it. This is the reason for such beefed-up police in low crime areas.

In my experience this way of life fills its residents (especially the white ones) with a constant, nagging anxiety that they are threatened. Hence as well the proliferation of so-called "gated communities" in affluent areas. It is very, very easy for someone like Trump to mobilize fear to court voters who are already live in an environment of constant fear of infiltration. These are the people who took the "knock out game" urban legend seriously. These are the people who bought duct tape and plastic sheeting after the government told them to in the wake of 9/11. These are the people who shoot trick or treaters. These are the people who fight to keep mosques from being built in their communities. These are the people who think the very existence of transgendered people is somehow a threat to their kids. These are the people who make excuses for George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin in a typical suburban fortress subdivision.

They needed someone to tell them they were protected and that their fears of other people were not hateful, but justified. The wall Trump talks of so fondly has real symbolic weight with them. They want walls around their communities, and want them heavily guarded. And they want the people they don't like who cross those walls to be shot. There have been far too many tragic cases to prove that point in the last few years.

So please, national news media, when discussing "Trump voters" get out of Akron and rural Mississippi for a change, and go to Suffolk County on Long Island or Morris County in New Jersey, two populous suburban counties in heavily blue states that went for Trump when the state as a whole did not. Those voters are key to understanding why Trump won.

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