Opinion Columns & Blogs

How voters feel about Georgia’s cities may have a huge impact in this 2020 race

When the public responded to President Donald Trump’s verbal assault on conditions in Baltimore, we remembered that it echoes similar phrases about Atlanta. Can smaller cities such as Columbus and Clarkston be far behind, as the 2020 elections heat up and mayors challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue next year?

When Trump blasted Baltimore as a result of Rep. Elijah Cummings’ investigation of border patrol agent social media posts, he derided the city as “rat-infested,” using a few additional choice phrases.

It’s not the first time Trump has gone after an American city. In 2017, after Rep. John Lewis announced he would skip the president’s inauguration, Trump labeled the Atlanta district “in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested).” Republicans pleaded with Trump to stop, and Lewis told folks at LaGrange College in a talk at that time that he had “moved on” from the argument, as reporters tried to get him to go after the president, and the issue moved off the headlines, until Baltimore.

By chance, my flight was canceled recently and I was rerouted to Baltimore for the day. My son and I got to take public transportation and see the amazing city, and even its poorer neighborhoods in need of improvement.

I found more people upset about the president’s comments. Even a self-described Trump supporter didn’t agree with his man’s assessment. “You can see good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods in every district, Republican and Democrat,” he said.

Statistics show that Baltimore is in good shape, one of the hottest spots to find work, and in tech and biopharmaceutical jobs, with good scores for hospitals, pedestrian and public transportation, and port activity, all in place before Trump’s “Opportunity Zones” passed as part of the 2017 tax overhaul. Yes, the city has tax and toxic pollution problems, as well as police and crime concerns.

The truth of the matter in targeting cities is that cities actually generate more economic revenue than the rural areas. Cities pay more in taxes than they get out of the government in terms of services. It’s the opposite for rural areas, which get more than they pay in, according to the Los Angeles Times. But with a political system skewed toward rural areas in the U.S. Senate and Electoral College, it’s not surprising.

Though cities get more criticism for crime, evidence shows that the perception is based on more studies being done on urban crime than rural crime. It actually depends on the type of crime as to who has it worse, showing it’s always worse for urban area. Per capita, there’s more rural law enforcement, another result of cities paying in more than they get.

Atlanta and Baltimore are likely to be previews for 2020, when former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry challenge Perdue. Cities will be knocked for just about everything, despite the reality showing that maybe they would be in better shape if funding went to those who pay more, instead of favoring the rural areas.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.