At a campaign rally in Cincinnati on Thursday, President Trump assailed California for having a homeless problem, specifically San Francisco and Los Angeles, calling it a "disgrace to our country."
The issue of homelessness, while a central feature and talking point here in San Francisco, has not been something Trump ever talked much about until last month. But he's apparently decided, while tripling down on his disparagement of Baltimore, that discussing America's "disgusting" urban areas — where he's never going to win many votes anyway — plays well in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
As KTVU reports, in his 90-minute rally speech Thursday night, Trump blamed Democrats for the troubles facing many American cities, saying, "No one has paid a higher price for the far-left destructive agenda than Americans living in our nation's inner cities."
The notion that "inner cities" across the country are cesspools of crime and urban woes feels a bit dated — as most of us know, living in the "inner" parts of Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco can be very expensive these days because it's more desirable than the suburbs, and crime rates have been falling nationwide for decades.
But Trump knows his audience — uninformed, fearful, racist, reactionary, elderly, and unlikely to do any research of their own — and he's wagering that they will get him elected again if he keeps talking about how Democrats have ruined America's cities.
Trump seems incredibly uninformed himself on the issue of homelessness, having said in an interview with Tucker Carlson last month that the "phenomenon" of homelessness "started two years ago." I'm not sure what Manhattan he's been living in for the last 50 years, but homelessness has been a problem there for a good 35 of those years, just as it has been in cities all over the country.
"For decades these communities have been run exclusively by Democrat politicians and it’s been total one-party control of the inner cities. For 100 years it’s been one-party control, and look at them," Trump said, per CNN. “We can name one after another, but I won’t do that because I don’t want to be controversial."
But name them he did.
"Look at Los Angeles with the tents, and the horrible, horrible disgusting conditions. Look at San Francisco, look at some of your other cities," Trump said, before moving on to his favorite target of the moment, Baltimore.
Being a politician who loves to foment outrage and hear himself cheered but hates to think through actual policy or cause-and-effect details, it should come as no surprise that Trump offered no solutions, hypothetical or otherwise, to fixing the problem of homelessness. And while it's a complex and not easily fixable problem, can we all agree that if Republican were running these cities the problem would still be there?
In that Tucker Carlson interview last month, Trump alluded to taking some action, saying vaguely, "we may intercede and do something to get that whole thing cleaned up."
Detention centers, anyone?
Update: Jennifer Friedenbach from San Francisco's Coalition on Homelessness issued a statement in response to the president's remarks, saying, "Look around any major United States city and all of us can see people who are suffering as a result of the Trump government's indifference to poverty and homelessness. Ironically the [party] he leads is the very same one that caused this homelessness crisis by cutting the federal housing budget by 78%. This occurred primarily under a different republican president named Ronald Reagan."
Photo: Michael Vadon/Wikimedia