Liberal Press Intensifies War on Suburbs

While conservatives routinely, and accurately, characterize the establishment media in America as being profoundly biased both against President Trump and, more significantly, biased against everything that is even slightly right-of-center, they don’t generally consume this media. Because it is inescapable, they’ll see an example of liberal media bias here and there, find it frustrating, and move on to One America News or the Epoch Times, or their favorite conservatives on Twitter. 

This is a mistake. The major networks and the major newspapers don’t just relentlessly poke at President Trump, they reinforce—also relentlessly—every piety and supposed axiom and premise of leftist ideology. Right-of-center people need to be aware of this and understand how it works.

Another powerful example of media bias is found in America’s major cultural magazines: The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and New York magazine. Now routinely including feature-length articles on every conceivable public policy issue, these magazines hammer away, establishing certain truths as “beyond debate” where, in reality, there needs to be impassioned debate. The cumulative impact of these articles is a leftist intelligentsia in America that is increasingly closed-minded about an expanding array of issues.

“Suburbs” as Code 

A recent article in New York exemplifies the degree to which partisan propaganda has replaced impartial analysis about what is a deceptively mundane issue. In the article’s subtitle in the print edition, “The System—Segregation and the suburbs,” the reader is already subjected to an editorial opinion. The implication is suburbs are inherently racist and unjustifiably segregated.

The cover photograph, of an elderly white man using a gasoline powered mower to cut his front lawn, adds additional context designed to subconsciously reinforce a political message: Old privileged white people live in suburbs, burning fossil fuel to mow their water-wasting lawns. The already indoctrinated will infer even more from this photograph: Who does this old man think he is? What does he contribute? Why is his life so comfortable when so many people are in need? How can we correct this injustice?

Writer Zak Cheney-Rice leads off by stating, “To really understand the suburbs as imagined by Donald Trump and Joe Biden, you first have to understand that neither of them is really talking about the suburbs. They are talking about segregation.” Got that? “Suburbs” is code for “segregation.”

Cheney-Rice goes on to claim that late in Trump’s campaign, the president fell back on appeals to racist suburbanites because he’d failed on the big issue which was to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Through his article, Cheney-Rice recites arguments that are no longer questioned in polite company: suburbs equate to “white housing exclusivity,” the origins of suburbs were “white flight,” suburbs are a sanitized way to achieve racial segregation, and in turn, segregation is “a means of resource accumulation and protection.”

Most of what Cheney-Rice argues, however, falls short when compared to facts and history. 

To support his arguments regarding white flight and intentional segregation, Cheney-Rice has to reach back to the early 1960s. Nobody disputes that segregation was a reality back then, but “back then” was 60 years ago. The author uses Atlanta as a case study in white flight and segregated suburbs, but admits a few paragraphs later that Atlanta’s suburbs are now largely integrated. 

And what about California’s suburbs? Most of them were built to accommodate new residents, as California’s population exploded during the 1960s and 1970s. Suburbs in California and throughout the American West were built because people liked living in detached homes with yards, and had absolutely nothing to do with “white flight.”

Big Progressive Lies

The problem with articles that perpetuate the myth that suburbs are inherently racist is that it can be used to justify extreme solutions that are ultimately counterproductive. As Trump repeatedly pointed out in his remarks on America’s suburbs, overall, they are already over one-third populated by ethnic minorities. And while the media never reported it honestly, Trump would always go on to say how everyone living in suburbs, including ethnic minorities, worked hard to achieve that lifestyle, and none of them want to see their quality of life destroyed.

The progressive war on suburbs is one of the biggest issues of our time because this war relies on two big lies—that suburbs are racist and that suburbs are ecologically unsustainable. By accepting these lies, we will not only lose our suburbs, we will lose, in all facets of our lives, our property rights, our prosperity, and our incentive to work and achieve.

Cheney-Rice is correct that not one, but two generations ago, there were still parts of America where institutionalized segregation existed. But what Cheney-Rice and like-minded progressives cite as evidence of racism today is disproportionate outcomes, which they fail to attribute to other causes such as broken homes, corrupt elected officials, public schools ruined by the teachers’ unions, and an overall culture—encouraged by the mainstream media—that devalues education and disrespects law and order. It is perfectly normal for anyone, white or black, to move out of low-income neighborhoods as soon as they can afford to do it. It has nothing to do with racism.

To be clear: Cheney-Rice, writing for New York, is only one voice in a coordinated media assault on suburbs. Here are just a few recent examples from The Atlantic, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Detroit News, Baltimore Sun, NBC, Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Time. It’s a bottomless pit of endless content, with one message: destroy the suburbs. If you object, you’re a racist.

The solutions that progressives are offering, especially when combined with the requirements of environmentalists, spell certain destruction for the suburbs. Basing their urban planning on the antiracist principle of “inclusion,” progressives intend to mandate subsidized housing in every suburb in America. In practice, this means that households where both parents work full time to have enough money to pay their mortgage and take care of their children, will find themselves with neighbors who don’t work, don’t have to get up early in the morning or quiet down and sleep at night, and who don’t have the same care of ownership for their homes.

Who Will Bear the Costs?

How much reasoning does it take, how many psychological studies, how many examples from history are necessary to convince progressives that when people don’t have to work for what they have, they don’t value their possessions with the same care as those who do have to work for everything they’ve got? 

“Inclusive” zoning, designed to sprinkle subsidized housing through America’s suburbs, is a form of Communism. It has nothing to do with race. The question should not be, “are you a racist, or not?” The question should be “are you a Communist, or not?”

To pile on the misery that forced “desegregation” would impose on hard working suburbanites of all races, environmentalists have declared suburbs to be ecologically unsustainable. Consequently, they believe we cannot have any more of them. “Urban containment” is their mantra. This, too, does not get the attention it deserves from conservatives.

America’s population is projected to increase from just over 330 million today to more than 400 million by 2060. If the environmentalists have their way, all of that population growth will occur within the footprint of existing cities. Already, in a series of progressive/environmentalist legislation and ordinances passed at the state and regional levels, and spreading around the nation, officials are changing zoning laws to allow multi-family dwellings in neighborhoods that are currently single-family homes.

At this point, the role of libertarian enablers should be mentioned. Libertarians have an argument—not strong, but at least plausible—that owners of single-family homes should be able to do whatever they want with their property. This flies in the face of the zoning laws that everyone living in a neighborhood relied on when they invested their lifetime earnings into home ownership, but libertarians are purists.

How libertarians might adapt more productively to the conversation over urban planning is to first defend the right of owners of open land to develop their properties to build new suburbs, and then, and only then, defend the right of homeowners in existing suburbs to rezone their properties.

In any case, libertarians are not the enemy. They’re just confused. The real enemy is the Communists, hiding behind overblown, distorted ideals of anti-racism and environmental protection. And as these Communists destroy America’s suburbs, rest assured it won’t be the wealthy enclaves of rich liberal idealists that end up with subsidized apartment houses plopped next to mansions with spacious lots and manicured lawns. Those people can afford to litigate. As usual, it will be the hardest working Americans, the middle class of all colors, who will pay the price for progressive idiocy.

It is nearly impossible to counter adequately the agenda-driven misinformation that comes out of America’s establishment media, but their war on suburbs is a war that must be fought. Suburbs are not racist. They are not ecologically unsustainable. They are beautiful, and we need more of them.

About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness and co-founder in 2013 of the California Policy Center.

Photo: Getty Images

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