As the tragedy of George Floyd’s death is compounded by anarchists, leftist groups, and others using justifiable local community outrage as a launchpad for senseless violence, our nation must react with sober resolve.
These riots are no longer about George Floyd but there remains an opportunity coming out of this experience to address policies that stifle equality. Real leadership is needed. To be sure, bloviating commentators on television crying racism and superficial politicians restating the problem help no one.
President Trump now faces a choice. It’s one thing to declare ANTIFA a terrorist organization and call rioters "thugs." It’s another to rally the nation to finally address the conditions and the carnage that define too many low-income, urban environments.
Our cities are a great American contradiction. They epitomize the height of innovation, private sector achievement, wealth, and diversity. They also have been laboratories for the failed experiment of massive, direct government intervention in virtually all aspects of life.
Our cities are the homes of great financial markets, transformative industries, architectural marvels, and boundary-pushing cultural experiences. Yet for marginal neighborhoods, often far from the spotlight and opportunity, they have long-been the victim of policy stagnation that reinforces unacceptable conditions. That stagnation creates fertile ground for systemic inequality and brooding resentment.
Now isn’t the time for tweet storms, beer summits, and shallow rhetoric about teachable moments. It’s time for us as a nation to have the uncomfortable conversations we’ve avoided for decades. America is not truly free and equal so long as large portions of the populace are relegated to cycles of generational dependency, substandard education, deplorable housing conditions, and a lack of economic opportunity.
One corner of our politics doesn’t want to have this conversation or take real action because it won’t benefit them politically. The other doesn’t want to be exposed for supporting policies that have not only failed to improve lives in minority communities and inner cities but have in many ways made them worse.
Republicans have ignored the problems of our urban minority communities for years, choosing to focus their attention on vote-rich white suburbs and rural locales rather than minority communities perceived to be permanently coopted by Democrats.
Democrats and the media have spent decades telling blacks and Latinos that Republicans are racists. They, together with the poverty pimps coopted by urban Democrat machinery, have given these communities a steady diet of grand promises and hand-outs that by virtually any objective measure have failed to stem the tide of violence or increase economic mobility.
The relationship between family stability, education, jobs, and financial stability on one side and dependency, broken homes, drug use, and violence on the other is irrefutable. Yet it doesn’t move Democrat politicians to action.
For Democrats who feign outrage at times like these and wonder aloud why these communities burn, they’ve long-been complicit for the sake of maintaining that critical voting bloc. Violence and poverty in the inner cities claim thousands of lives, yet the Democrat Party leaders in these communities do little to stop it.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wondered in a tweet this past week why communities of color were hit so bad by COVID 19. It was either willful blindness or shameless pandering. Poor communities have more smoke shops, vape shops, pots shops, liquor stores, drug deals, crime, poor air quality, fewer recreation spaces and cramped housing. Their healthcare facilities are of lower quality, along with their schools.
This is America’s moment. Whether something will produce votes or credit in the media cannot be the measuring stick by which we decide whether we should do something. Conversations and decisions like these, that are so central to keeping America’s promise of equal opportunity, are about helping save and improve the lives of millions of marginalized people.
When President George W. Bush wanted to invest a record amount of money on AIDS research and aid for African nations reeling from the disease, there were some in his orbit who challenged the concept. They said it was too risky, wouldn’t win him black votes or get him credit with Democrats or the press. He didn’t care. President Bush knew the program that would come to be known as PEPFAR was the right thing to do. It has saved millions of lives.
President Trump proved during the unprecedented national response to the Coronavirus Pandemic that federal, state, and city governments as well as the private sector can mobilize quickly to address a pressing crisis. Over these last few months, we’ve done what many thought impossible. Now the president should bring together government, leaders of minority communities, policy experts, and the private sector to chart a new course for America’s urban communities of color and all those trapped in the dangerous cycle of dependency.
It’s time we had a national strategy to transform public housing from the superblocks that had their underpinnings in a racist ideology, into safe, livable and temporary assistance. It’s time we committed ourselves to innovation in education that truly meets the needs of underserved communities by rethinking public school practices and expanding school choice, among other proven strategies.
It means working with the private sector to expand job training and opportunities in communities that lack those essential ingredients. Government should be prepared to incentivize private sector investment in opportunity deserts to help reduce reliance on government programs and increase economic mobility.
The first black president failed to help people in these communities live better lives. Food stamps and school lunches don’t solve these chronic problems.Hundreds of thousands more black families were living below the poverty line by the end of Obama’s second term. There were more deaths due to urban violence during Obama’s presidency than Americans killed in 9/11 and the war in Iraq combined.
The solutions won’t be easy to implement. It will take courage for Republicans to wake up and address systemic inequalities. It will take Democrats to abandon their decades-old con that just throwing another billion dollars at some government program will manufacture equality. Both parties will have to acknowledge trillions in welfare spending and an alphabet soup of programs haven’t addressed the needs of the urban poor.
It will take a lot more than 240 characters. This is going to take focus, risk, commitment, outreach and fact-based discussion. The media and many Democrats won’t believe it’s possible or want it to succeed. That cannot matter.
Many believe Trump isn’t up to the challenge. I challenge the president to lead — and prove them wrong.
Tom Basile has been part of the American political landscape from Presidential campaigns to local politics. He served in the Bush Administration from 2001-2004, as Executive Director of the NYS Republican Party and has held a range of senior-level communications roles in and out of government. His new book Let it Sink In: The Decade of Obama and Trump provides a look back at the 2010s to prepare us to defend freedom in the 2020s. His critically-acclaimed book, Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq (Foreword by Amb. John R. Bolton), chronicles his time in Baghdad fighting media bias and driving coverage of the Iraq war. In 2011, he was featured in Time Magazine's Person of the Year spread about political activism around the world. Basile is an adjunct professor at Fordham University and runs a New York-based strategic communications firm. He is a member of the New York Bar and sits on a number of academic and philanthropic advisory boards. Learn more about him at TomBasile.com or follow him on Twitter @Tom_Basile. Read Tom Basile's Reports — More Here.
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