Urban issues to watch for in the presidential debate

CityLab Daily
Bloomberg

It begins: Tonight marks the first U.S. presidential debate, to be held at 9 p.m. Eastern in Cleveland, Ohio, and it will address some of the most pressing issues dominating 2020 — from Covid-19 to the economy, to the integrity of this very election. With coronavirus deaths in the U.S. reaching the grim 200,000 mark last week (globally it's surpassed 1 million), and unemployment continually rising, President Donald Trump will have to account for his botched pandemic response while former Vice President Joe Biden convinces voters that he has a plan to fix what Trump hasn't. The virus has also upended the traditional election process by making in-person voting risky and by further threatening the right to vote — particularly for Black Americans and other people of color. Many states are allowing mail-in voting, but the president has doubled down on his campaign against its legitimacy.

At some point, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News will direct the conversation to this summer's wave of protests against police brutality in a segment labeled "Race and Violence in Our Cities." Such framing has drawn criticism for reinforcing the long-held but misguided view that urban America is crime-infested and that Black people are inherently violent. It also suggests that recent demonstrations against America's deep-seated history of racial inequality are holding cities hostage, a narrative that the Trump administration has consistently used to delegitimize the Black Lives Matter movement and to punish cities that allow it to take place. Law enforcement officials have also adopted that rhetoric to blame this year's spike in shootings and homicides on the "anti-police rhetoric that's permeating our country," as Detroit's police chief recently told local reporters.

Notably missing from the list of topics — which also includes the future of the Supreme Court and "the Trump and Biden Records" — is climate change, even as hurricanes and wildfires ravage cities and as polling shows that it's an increasingly important issue for voters. The omission is not new, however, as past presidential debates have also made little to no mention of the consequences of a warming world, and the racial disparity of who is bearing the brunt of it.

-Linda Poon

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What we're reading

  • The limits of desegregation in Washington, D.C (The Atlantic)
  • California's Project Homekey turns hotels into housing (Next City)
  • The #resistance and the retirement community (New York Magazine)
  • The collateral damage of Airbnb's Covid refund policy (Slate)
  • The surprisingly limited success of Trump's signature anti-poverty program (Politico)
  • The Obama Justice Department had a plan to hold police accountable for abuses. The Trump DOJ has undermined it. (ProPublica)

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