When was the last time you were called racist? If a supporter of President Trump, it’s a safe bet the gross epithet is regularly seared upon your forehead. Always, by those who self-anoint as progressive.
Such a charge, once preserved for the truly primitive of mind, is now stamped and singed on anyone who dares to disagree with anything issuing from the left side of the political aisle.
To point out the obvious is “racist.” This week, President Trump’s blistering comments on Baltimore’s cadaverous state invited the familiar threadbare cries. Perhaps, because that city is majority-black. Or perhaps because that term is the only resort of those defending the indefensible.
Because Baltimore is indefensible. And its denizens deserve better.
President Trump’s greatest gift is his penchant for forcing his foes to defend the indefensible. Baltimore, like many Fishtowns across post-industrial America, is Hell, for the forgotten majority, at least.
This scandal, of course, has nothing to do with a congressman’s melanin density. In the 1950s, city residents, buoyed by chrome, copper, and steel industry jobs, enjoyed a 7 percent pay bump on the average American. The number earning middle-class wages was one-fifth higher, poverty one-fifth lower than average America.
Of course, what ails Baltimore ails Youngstown, Ohio, and the burgeoning roll-call of desolate swathes that used to matter. Back when people mattered. And not just the welfare of big business and moneyed interests.
What ails Baltimore is what put Donald Trump in the White House. It is what pushed a majority of Britons to vote to leave the European Union—the economic treachery of self-serving elites who’ve run the show since the 1980s.
Which is why the comments from one man were so disappointing to read. David Simon, writer of the acclaimed TV drama “The Wire,” has nothing but contempt for the president, and spent the weekend tweet-scorching.
If one has actually watched “The Wire,” however, you would think the creator harbored (or should harbor) Trumpian sympathies.
During its glorious five-season run on HBO from 2002 to 2008, “The Wire” was a weekly pastiche of crumbling American institutions. The perils of one-party rule, the decline of newspapers, the soft bigotry of educational decline, the corrosive effects of deindustrialization, and the hopelessness of reforming a system bought and sold by the deepest of pockets.
In the third season, centered upon the tribulations of dockworkers condemned to terminal decline, union man Frank Subotka, today’s Trump Democrat, laments the loss of what once enabled the American Dream: “You know what the trouble is, Brucey? We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy’s pocket.”
Soon after, the docks go under. And a Democratic mayor sells off the real estate to developers of upscale, yuppie apartments.
The theme is obvious. And Trumpian. And not just within Simon’s fiction.
Unemployed and under-employed, idle at a west Baltimore soup kitchen or dead-ended at some strip-mall cash register—these are the excess Americans. The economy staggers along without them, and without anyone in this society truly or sincerely regarding their desperation.
Ex-steelworkers and ex-longshoremen, street dealers and street addicts, and an army of young men hired to chase and jail the dealers and addicts, whores and johns and men to run the whores and coerce the johns—and all of them unnecessary and apart from the new millennium economic model that long ago declared them irrelevant.
This is the world of “The Wire,” the America left behind.
The spirit of that extract would be at home within the burgeoning circles of national conservatism. I’d imagine this journal would happily publish such work.
But for President Trump to point out Baltimore’s problems invites the charge of racism. Bernie Sanders once referred to parts of impoverished Baltimore as “a third-world country.”
Obviously, Bernie is a progressive lodestar, so his comment didn’t register among the Chatterati for whom President Trump’s mere existence tinders a Pavlovian public contempt.
And such public contempt might animate the Democratic base. But it won’t win elections. What will win is the pointing out of obvious problems, combined with the gumption actually to do something about them. President Trump hasn’t read Debrett’s on manners. So what? His voters know that.
Truth is, this why Democrats are so virulently opposed to the president. Without those seemingly intractable problems ensuring legions of lifelong Democratic voters, they have little else to offer. Their record in Baltimore says it all. And Trump-era conservatives aren’t afraid to point out the obvious.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Diaz Meyer for The Washington Post via Getty Images