Seeing Trump go on about “low-income housing” as a supposed threat to (white) suburbs takes me back to when I was a young reporter covering a working-class community in northwest Indiana, about 40 minutes from downtown Chicago. (1/)
There was an old gadfly in this town who developed a bit of a following, even getting a quarter of the vote in a three-way primary in the mayor’s race. Trump reminds me a lot of him. The guy was rich (by local standards), and he was also a racist old crank. (2/)
Anyway, this racist old crank—who has been dead for many years—was named Rowland Fabian, and he was legendary for coming to city council meetings and behaving outlandishly, insulting people (even disabled people!), and being openly racist. (3/)
Fabian himself wouldn’t mind me saying so if he were still alive. He reveled in it. When another reporter asked him about being prejudiced, he responded: “I’m not prejudiced! I’m a bigot! I’m the biggest bigot in Lake Station, and I’m proud of it.” (4/)
So anyway, Fabian set himself against a government-sponsored housing development that was trying to build some homes in this small city. While he was not shy about using racial slurs, he was canny enough to know that not everybody would respond to outright racist epithets. (5/)
So whenever there was media around, or during public comments at the numerous hearings on this housing development, he would always decry the planned development as “low, slum housing.” Which was a joke, for a few reasons. (6/)
First of all, this town—my hometown—is a very modest community economically. A lot of people who live there are fairly poor and live in poor housing stock. Whatever housing would have been built by this county agency would have been an improvement. (7/)
But everybody KNEW what Fabian was getting at when he said “I don’t want low, slum housing in my hometown!” It was a coded appeal to racists who didn’t want black people moving in. Nobody was under any illusions on this point. Everybody knew what he meant. (8/)
And everybody was supposed to know what he meant. In private moments—even occasionally in public, if he slipped up—Fabian would tell you exactly why he didn’t want these homes built in his little suburban city.

Trump is doing exactly the same thing. I’ve seen it before. (9/)
When white people hear what Trump is saying about “low-income housing,” they have long been trained to understand that this is code for racial integration. In many of these communities, the existing housing is already quite modest. It isn’t income level that’s at issue. (10/)
So once again, Trump is going full George Wallace on us. And what we’ve all got to understand is that there are still a lot of people who will not just get the message but fully embrace it. Trump speaks for racists. He validates their racism. They love him for it. (11/11)
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