Election 2020

Trump Ran as the Nation's NIMBY in Chief. It Didn't Work.

The president promised to save suburbanites' neighborhoods from a wave of new housing development. They voted against him anyway.

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President Donald Trump ran a NIMBY-inflected ("not in my backyard") campaign designed to scare suburban voters into supporting him. It doesn't appear to have worked.

"Suburban counties across the country turned away from President Trump in this election," reported The New York Times this morning. "That includes suburbs in the Midwest and the Sun Belt, in inner-ring counties and those farther out, in predominantly white communities and more diverse ones."

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden improved on Hillary Clinton's 2016 performance in suburban counties by nearly 5 percent on average, and up to 8 percent in suburban, surprisingly swingy Georgia, says the Times.

That matches data parsed by Indeed chief economist and urban demography wonk Jed Kolko, who found that Biden improved Democrats' lead in higher-density suburbs while putting a dent in Trump's lead in lower-density suburban areas, compared to the last presidential election.

This result comes in spite of months of repeated warnings from the president that a Biden administration would result in suburbanites' tidy, single-family-zoned communities being overrun by high-density housing, low-income renters, and general urban dysfunction.

"A once-unthinkable agenda, a relentless push for more high-density housing in single-family residential neighborhoods, has become the mainstream goal of the left," wrote Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson in The Wall Street Journal back in August. "We will save our cities, from which these terrible policies have come, and we will save our suburbs."

"Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!" Trump tweeted at the "Suburban Housewives of America" earlier in the summer. Up until the very end of the election cycle, the president was warning rally-goers of the impending destruction of the suburbs and all things holy if Democrats took the White House.

The instrument of suburban America's destruction, according to Trump, was Biden's stated plan to tie federal housing and transportation spending to states and localities adopting reforms to their zoning codes to allow for more, denser housing.

Throughout the campaign, Trump also bragged incessantly about his scrapping of an Obama-era fair housing rule that required recipients of HUD funds to report on obstacles to fair housing and then propose ways of overcoming those obstacles.

Biden has promised to reinstate that regulation, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which Trump warned would be used to strongarm communities into abolishing their single-family-only zoning laws in order to allow low-income housing developments.

Awkwardly, up until Trump decided to run as the nation's NIMBY in chief, his own administration had been working on an AFFH replacement that was also designed to nudge local communities into repealing red tape on housing development.

Trump's own caustic broadsides against new housing generally ensured his "save the suburbs" message didn't resonate, says Nolan Gray, an urban policy researcher formerly of George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

"NIMBYism is at its most compelling when someone is hearing about a building that's coming in right down the street from them," Gray tells Reason. "I don't think people are moved by the broad general abstract 'more housing is coming' concerns."

That helps explain why in many (but not all) public opinion polls, a majority of voters from both parties express support for new housing in their neighborhoods in the abstract, even as battles over specific projects rage before local zoning boards and city councils.

The obscurity and complexity of the AFFH rule didn't help Trump's marketing either, Gray says: "It's incredibly wonky. It's a legal mandate from a 50-year law that there's already a bipartisan consensus on how to respond to it."

As of Friday morning, votes are still being counted in several swing states. It nevertheless looks like Biden will be the next president, and Republicans will maintain their majority in the U.S. Senate. That, says Gray, could end up being the best result for free market housing policy.

"The things that should concern libertarians the most [about Biden's housing policy] are the big spending bills," he notes. Biden has proposed spending billions more on everything from affordable housing construction to mortgage assistance.

"With divided government, the risk of that is very low, and the chance that there will just be administrative rule changes that are generally going to be positive is high," says Gray.

There is some cause for pessimism on the administrative front, particularly if Biden goes ahead with his stated plan of reinstating the old Obama-era AFFH rule in its entirety. While not the neighborhood-destroying monster that Trump portrayed it as, that rule included burdensome reporting requirements for HUD recipients that consumed a lot of time and money but didn't do a good job of identifying the communities with the most exclusionary housing regulations.

Nevertheless, the failure of Trump's NIMBYism to attract voters is cause for celebration. At a minimum, it's evidence that the electorate is not voting based on which candidate is most wedded to the regulations fueling America's housing affordability crisis.

NEXT: Trump's Desperate Conspiracy Theories Won't Save His Presidency, but They Might Save His Ego

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  1. Say wut? NIMBYism, suburbanism, those were the keys to the White House?

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  2. Highly doubtful any of this was a factor. I don’t think many suburbanites voted for or against based on this policy.

    1. This. He lost because he’s perceived to be an asshole. Not wrongly.

      Now we have to pray for health of Joe Biden. And a Republican Senate.

      1. I have to agree here. People in the suburbs are pretty bland hardworking people. Our neighbors are mixed in income, race and religion. You are not going to do well to sell division. We are also sensitive to things. Yes, we don’t like rioters in the city, but we also don’t like kids in cages.
        Another thing that may not be popular here, guns. We in the suburbs have do not problem with the second amendment and many may have guns, but we don’t show them. They are for hunting or protection and not to be waved around. So militia walking around with guns to show they can, is not a big selling point.

        1. Pretty much the same around here. It was a losing issue for Trump to try and convince the soccer moms.

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        2. People in the suburbs are pretty bland

          Yep. They’re mostly boring, sad, and pathetic.

          1. Yes, and we are happy to be that way.

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      2. No one has won the rowdies you yet. In fact , I declare Trump to be the winner.

        Which has exactly as much effect on the outcome as any faggoty media organization proclaiming Biden to be elected.

  3. If you think people voted for Biden based on policy as opposed to the feelings they had about Trump, I think you are mistaken.

    “I just want things back to normal.”

    They’ll get their normal good and hard.

    1. The New Normal

      Liberty is dead, because it’s racist

    2. That is a fantasy only a leftist could invent…
      Facts can be very hard to swallow for brainwashed leftists, facts often do not align with their programmed narrative.

      The fact is and it’s on display to the entire world;
      6 Democrat run states require adult supervision in order to complete a legal and certifiable election result. The knowing incompetence on display is a national disgrace. If Florida can count and certify on the same day these states have displayed the inability of the Democrat party to be able to run an election without the result being in question.

      Elections were designated critical infrastructure by Obama in Jan 2017. Trump’s CISA agency has been across securing this election and it will know the weak spots each state refused to secure. This is now a national security matter. Rest assured these 6 states will get all the adult supervision needed to return a legal and certifiable result.

      When all the ballots without; clear chain of custody, actual living voter origins and witnessing their duplication are removed Trump will take a clear win in each. The Democrat run states here have all seen themselves compromised by the Harry Reid ballot harvesting machine. This will not be allowed, will not escape prosecution and will not ever happen again.

      In fact after this, rest assured there will be Federal supervision of all national elections. The Democrat party are incapable of being honest and fair and as a result will drive big changes to the way elections are mangaed from this point forward. Thanks Democrats, your serial incompetence and corruption will be used to improve the nation. Trump for a third term!

  4. No this was a vote about personality which is a stupid reason to pick someone. Clearly voters believed Biden was just some guy. Nothing to worry about Joe they said. White bread stale turkey and milk. Except that sandwich is getting thrown out and then the hard left proggies take over. Every one of them a Stalinist turd.

    1. Do you believe that personality has a lot to do with someone’s actions?

  5. “While not the neighborhood-destroying monster that Trump portrayed it as”

    Try telling that to someone who’s neighborhood is becoming a traffic nightmare. The suburban streets were never intended to handle the population densities that are being proposed. That will mean mass eminent domain abuse since the only way to increase road capacity it to take land from suburbanites’ single family homes.

    Your argument is positively stupid. Do you think that people voted for higher taxes on themselves too? Everyone thought that the taxes were going to be put on “someone else”. No one voted for Biden thinking that it would be their homes that would be subject to being confiscated to make room for mass public transportation into the suburbs.

    1. I mean, no one to blame but themselves. You can’t sustainably build a culture around mass sprawl. Besides that, it’d be easier to convert existing roadway ROW into mass transit rather than expanding everything. Everything in suburbs already are pretty well overbuilt simply so Sally can shave 5 seconds off her commute.

      1. Besides that, it’d be easier to convert existing roadway ROW into mass transit rather than expanding everything.

        The main reason the roadways were built was because mass transit didn’t meet the transportation needs of surburban dwellers. Denver paved over it’s Tramway light rail lines for that very reason. Even today, Denver’s mass transit system is poorly occupied outside of rush hour, to the point some lines have scaled back services. Mass transit in sprawling western cities will be even more untenable now that Karen and Ken are afraid to leave the house for the foreseeable future because they think they’ll catch the next strain of Chinese BatAIDS.

        1. Tony will catch Chinese BatSIDS at his next trip to the bathhouse when the guys run a train in/on him.

      2. They’re trying that around here with the Maryland Purple Line and it’s a complete debacle so far. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Line_(Maryland)#Purple_Line_Transit_Partners_quits
        Even if it’s ever built, it will likely have low ridership. But who knows, it might never be completed.

  6. “A once-unthinkable agenda, a relentless push for more high-density housing in single-family residential neighborhoods, has become the mainstream goal of the left,”

    This is a true statement. If that’s what white suburban voters want, then I’m happy to expand the available land for tents and meth labs out to them.

  7. I thought Trump was running on a platform of federalism and decentralizing urban planning authority. But I guess that would make Trump sound downright libertarian, and we can’t have that at a ‘libertarian’ magazine.

    1. Also, I love the subtext here. We can’t call the election, until we can call it for Biden. Then it’s a done deal.

  8. dude the Shop-Rite kids are beating you right now.

  9. Yes, that’s what the election was all about.

  10. Christian seriously thinks that Trump lost because of the issues and policies? With what happened in the House races and state propositions? Trump lost because of his personal issues, full stop.

  11. Perhaps the author of this propaganda should check other sources for evidence, as here in PA Republicans picked up two state row offices (Treasurer and Auditor General), increased their leads in the PA Senate and House in suburban areas, defeated the PA Democrat House leader, and picked up one (and perhaps two) Congressional seats from the Democrats (that PA’s Democrat Supreme Court illegally gerrymandered three years ago to give Democrats three more seats in 2018).

    Seems like the only place in PA where Democrats picked up lots of votes was in Philly, where it appears they’ve manufactured new votes during the past three days.

    1. In sum, Republicans got far more votes than Democrats in PA (except for Philly’s ever increasing votes for Biden, where it appears Democrats are trying to steal the election).

    2. No, in Chester County, Biden got 17% more votes than Trump vs. Clinton getting 9% more. Also GOP lost a Senate seat held since the Civil War, a State House seat, and saw several toss-up Dem incumbents increase their margin of victory.

      1. Facts leftists should begin to swallow regardless of their brainwashing…6 Democrat run states require adult supervision in order to complete a legal and certifiable election result. The incompetence on display proves the Democrat party is unable to manage any election without the result being in question.

        Elections were designated critical infrastructure by Obama in Jan 2017. Trump’s CISA agency has been across securing this election. It will know all the weak spots each state refused to secure. This is now a national security matter. These 6 states will get all the adult supervision needed to return a legal and certifiable result. Expect federal arrests and indictments for instances of voter fraud or ballot dumping, check the DOJ website it has been happening since September. Once results are certified expect the Feds to start looking at any clear irregularities referred to them.

        When all the ballots without clear chain of custody, without actual living voter origins and without their duplication having been witnessed are removed, Trump will win in each of those states. These Democrat run states have all been compromised by the Harry Reid ballot harvesting machine. This will not be allowed, will not escape prosecution and will not ever happen again. After this, Fed supervision of all national elections.

  12. Do I have to read this blather before I can comment? Because I’m not wasting my time. So, no comment.

  13. Oh look it’s another episode of Libertarians For Federal Zoning Rules.

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  15. I basically agree, though I think the suburban vote had a lot more to do with COVID, even though Biden’s policies would have been far worse, both on the economy and mortality. As we will soon discover the hard way.

    1. Damn shreek, you haven’t busted this sock out in a good long while. Remember when you were going between this one and Dajjal in the same thread and accidentally outed yourself? Lmao. Good times.

      1. Oh so was that the pretext for banning me? I guess they realized their mistake and finally let me back on.

        But yeah those were fun times. What sock are you accidentally outing yourself as?

    2. The biggest factor are the million plus phony ballots in all the swing states.

  16. Facts are hard to swallow for brainwashed leftists, because facts often do not align with the narrative they’ve been programmed to believe.

    The fact is and it’s on display to the entire world;
    6 Democrat run states require adult supervision in order to complete a legal and certifiable election result. The knowing incompetence on display is a national disgrace. If Florida can count and certify on the same day these states have displayed the inability of the Democrat party to be able to run an election without the result being in question.

    Elections were designated critical infrastructure by Obama in Jan 2017. Trump’s CISA agency has been across securing this election and it will know the weak spots each state refused to secure. This is now a national security matter. Rest assured these 6 states will get all the adult supervision needed to return a legal and certifiable result.

    When all the ballots without; clear chain of custody, actual living voter origins and witnessing their duplication are removed Trump will take a clear win in each. The Democrat run states here have all seen themselves compromised by the Harry Reid ballot harvesting machine. This will not be allowed, will not escape prosecution and will not ever happen again.

    In fact after this, rest assured there will be Federal supervision of all national elections. The Democrat party are incapable of being honest and fair and as a result will drive big changes to the way elections are mangaed from this point forward. Thanks Democrats, your serial incompetence and corruption will be used to improve the nation. Trump for a third term!

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  20. Trump very upsat due to voting and the….READ MORE

    1. Upsat…?????????

  21. Did this author boil the election down to development policies in suburbia?

  22. This article is literally the result of too many political prognosticators in the world. This issue was barely mentioned by the White House and almost no one voted with it in mind.

    The pains of having to find new and interesting things to write concerning the election and Trump in a world saturated with people doing the same must be agonizing. This one is a swing and a miss.

  23. Joe Biden appeared to clinch a victory on Saturday morning to become 46th president of the United States, closing out an election cycle that was dominated in the final months by debates around COVID-19, the economy, and police refor————>> Read More

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