Democrats condemned Monday as racist President Trump’s broadside at “rodent infested” Baltimore, but the blast also came as a reminder that most troubled major U.S. cities have been dominated for decades by one party, and it isn’t the GOP.
Cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Portland, San Francisco and St. Louis plagued by a host of social and economic ills have been run nearly continuously by Democratic mayors and councils. As far as Republicans are concerned, that’s no coincidence.
“The last Republican mayor of Baltimore city left office the year I was born, and I’m a wife, mother and a grandmother,” said Shannon Wright, a member of the Baltimore City Republican Central Committee and mayoral candidate.
The year was 1967.
“There have been no Republican policies policymakers in a long time, so if you’re going to assign blame to a party, it would have to be the Democratic Party,” she said.
Spurred by the 2015 riots, Baltimore has lost population while struggling with violent crime, mismanagement and corruption. Two of the last three mayors resigned over scandals. A WalletHub survey released last week ranked Baltimore the nation’s least family-friendly city.
SEE ALSO: Donald Trump says black voters in Baltimore calling White House to thank him
In other words, Baltimore’s problems are no secret, but Democrats and media outlets were outraged by Mr. Trump’s unrestrained tweet describing the Baltimore-based district of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings as a “disgusting rat and rodent infested mess.”
The National Action Network’s Al Sharpton said Monday that Mr. Trump had a “particular venom for blacks and people of color.” The Baltimore Sun ran an editorial headlined, “Better to have a few rats than be one,” while The New York Times ran a column, “The Rot You Smell is a Racist Potus.”
None of that deterred the president, who continued to pound the issue in a series of tweets accusing Mr. Cummings of ignoring conditions in his district.
“Baltimore, under the leadership of Elijah Cummings, has the worst Crime Statistics in the Nation. 25 years of all talk, no action! So tired of listening to the same old Bull,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Next, Reverend Al will show up to complain & protest. Nothing will get done for the people in need. Sad!”
Baltimore is far from his only municipal target. Mr. Trump previously blasted rising homelessness in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, as well as the “crime infested” Atlanta district of Democratic Rep. John Lewis, and the “terrible blight” of crime in Chicago.
The issue of urban decay has served a political purpose, allowed the White House to draw a contrast between House Democrats on the Russia collusion issue versus problems in their own problematic inner-city districts.
“I think it’s right for the president to raise the issue,” White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Look, I was in Congress for six years. If I had poverty in my district like they have in Baltimore, if I had crime in my district like they have in Chicago, if I had homelessness in my district like they have in San Francisco, and I spent all of my time in Washington, D.C., chasing down this Mueller investigation and this bizarre impeachment crusade, I would get fired.”
Mr. Cummings said that he was elected to do both.
“Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors,” he tweeted. “It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
Democrats keep winning as cities decline
The last time Chicago voted in a Republican mayor was 1927, but after years of population decline, driven by the high cost of living and violent crime, Chicago voters took to the polls in April and elected — another Democrat, Lori Lightfoot.
Why? Chris Cleveland, chairman of the Chicago Republican Party, said Republicans have virtually no chance in the Windy City, a phenomenon he attributed to the powerful Democratic political machine, fed by public-workers’ unions and patronage.
“The employees’ unions negotiate for higher salaries with the same people who receive their campaign contributions. It’s what keeps them in power,” said Mr. Cleveland. “You’d see people in this city switching allegiances very, very quickly if that were not in place.”
Even though they stay in power, Democrats have been unable to stop the flight of the middle class, including the black middle class, because they fail to understand that “the greatest social-services program is a job,” he said.
“They do not understand that a job brings amazing benefits not only to the individual, but to that individual’s family and that neighborhoods without jobs fail,” Mr. Cleveland said. “They also fail to understand that jobs do not come from the jobs fairy. Jobs come from businesses. You cannot be in favor of jobs when you’re hostile to business. And it’s getting worse.”
In St. Louis, which WalletHub ranked last year as the most major dangerous city and third worst city to live in, Joe Hodes said Democrats “have used the city as their personal fiefdoms for decades.” The last Republican mayor elected was in 1943.
“There are good things happening in this city, but they’re the result of private interests working with barely an assist from the city government,” said Mr. Hodes, chairman of the St. Louis City Republican Party committee.
Why don’t voters elect Republicans? “It’s a vicious cycle. You’ll never win so you don’t run,” he said, adding that “part of the problem is we’ve given up on these urban areas.”
Even Democrats have bemoaned the condition of Democrat-run cities. Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who’s seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, compared Baltimore in 2015 to a “Third World country,” but failed to trigger the same backlash.
In a tour last year of East Baltimore, then-Mayor Catherine Pugh said, “you can smell the rats” and “you can smell the dead animals,” as shown on a Fox 45 video.
Bernard “Jack” Young, acting mayor of Baltimore, said Mr. Trump could make himself useful by sending resources instead of lobbing insults.
“He has a pattern of attacking people of color,” Mr. Young told CNN. “I mean, if you want to help us, help us. Don’t talk about it. Send us the resources we need to rebuild America. He talks about how he wants to make America great again? Put the money in the cities that need it the most. That’s how you can make America great again.”
The Trump campaign said the president’s policies have boosted opportunities for minorities by investing in Opportunity Zones, reducing prison sentences through criminal-justice reform, and bringing black unemployment and the black poverty rate to historic lows.