There he went again.
As tensions with Iran threatened to escalate into an epic geopolitical disaster in the world’s tinderbox that is the Middle East last month, Donald Trump made time mid-afternoon on a recent Monday to attack a target closer to home:
San Francisco, Los Angeles and “many other Democrat Party run throughout the nation.”
In a fusillade of semi-coherent Tweets that day, Trump blamed those cities’ and states’ leaders for their homeless problems then ominously offered to get the federal government “involved in order to make those poorly run Democrat Cities Great Again!”—so long as they were “willing to acknowledge responsibility” and “politely” asked him for help.
Trump’s attacks on America’s largest cities are, of course, just the latest in a long series of tirades. He’s a man of many obsessions, but hating on America’s big cities and states is certainly among them.
For example, in September, Trump threatened to sic the federal government on San Francisco over needles in the streets, which he said were polluting the Pacific Ocean. (His EPA Administrator had no idea what his boss was talking about).
As many observers have noted, he’s really been attacking large American cities as lawless, immigrant-infested hellholes since the very beginning of his administration. Nothing new there.
However, this is bigger than just Trump.
Thought leaders on the American right have been singing—or shouting—the same tune. And their obsession with highlighting the real, supposed and imagined failures of American’s biggest cities and states reveals something entirely different:
The mismatch between reality and their perceptions of it. And more importantly, the real-life failures of their own ideas and policies in action.
Welcome to Dystopia
In a May op-ed for the Washington Times reprinted by FoxNews.com, right-wing cheerleader Tammy Bruce called California a “dystopian nightmare”.
Her latest evidence? 2,000 out of 40,000,000 Californians, living “on trash heaps” on Los Angeles’ skid row.
Content with extrapolating from 1/5,000th of 1 percent of its population, Bruce concluded confidently, “the formerly Golden State is a frightening embarrassment.”
Not to be outdone by Bruce’s robust social science, this summer Fox News “embarked on a project to chronicle the toll that progressive policies have taken on four West Coast cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland”.
And ever since, Fox’s project has been serving up fresh content for its evening-show pundits to indict the Democratic Party platform.
“Liberalism is a cancer,” shouted Fox News pundit Dan Bongino in August during a special Hannity segment called Liberal Cities in CRSIS.
“It’s a forest fire, it destroys everything it touches.”
Are we living in the same reality?
The right’s portrayal of large, Democratic-run cities and states omits, well, a lot.
Like a lot a lot.
Let’s look at some of the objective facts that Trump and right-wing pundits conveniently occlude from their regular tirades.
Capitalists love Big Blue Cities and States
Just follow the money. Republicans can talk all they want about how great their policies are for business. But look at where American and foreign investors actually place their bets.
The San Francisco and Los Angeles metro areas were collectively home to 18 million of America’s 327 million residents in 2018, according to Census data.
And yet they attracted $66.4 billion of the $116.5 billion of venture capital invested in the United States that year, according to data from PwC/CB Insights.
Let’s put that another way:
San Francisco and Los Angeles—liberal bastions and really ground zero for American progressive policies—attracted 57 percent of all venture capital investment in the United States despite only having 5.5 percent of the US population.
And that’s just one year. This isn’t a one-time fluke.
California, Massachusetts and New York have been the top 3 destinations for venture capital every year since 2008, according to PwC/CB Insights data.
And it’s not a close call or a secret.
Business media have made clear how domestic and foreign capital disproportionately place their bets in a few major American metros—oh yeah, which also happen to be bastions of liberal voters, liberal politicians and liberal policies.
“Only 30 percent of 2018 VC investment landed outside the superstar metros of San Francisco, San Jose, New York and Boston,” according to a Bloomberg story from last year, which wrote, “Most VC investment in 2018 went to … the same places it’s been going for a while now.”
Employees and families make more money in Big Blue Cities and States
CNBC—which last time I checked wasn’t the Socialist Worker—ran a story last year highlighting the US cities where workers earn the highest salaries.
And guess what.
Three of the top 10 were in California.
In fact, two of the cities with the highest paid workers—SF and Seattle—were two of the cities Fox News considers failures worthy of special coverage.
Only one city out of 10—Anchorage—was in a Republican state.
Again, these data aren’t one-offs. They’re not cherry-picked. They represent clear, repeat patterns. Workers in the large Democratic-dominated cities and states considered hellholes by the right earn far above the national average year after year.
People in Democratic-run states live longer than those in Republican-run states
For a Party obsessed with being pro-life, the following should be unwelcome news.
The 10 states where Americans had the shortest life expectancies were all solid Republican states.
And of the 10 states where Americans lived the longest, not one was a solid Republican state.
Seven of these 10 were Democratic bastions, including California, where residents lived longer than any other state but for Hawaii. The other three—Colorado, Minnesota and New Hampshire—are Purple, but barely.
WHAT’S GOING ON?
The juxtaposition of the right’s portrayal of Democratic-run cities and states with objective measures of success (more capital, higher pay and longer lives) should be jarring.
It should be jarring in the extreme.
So what’s going on here? What explains Trump’s and right’s obsession with portraying Blue bastions as failed states?
It’s this simple:
The right’s theory of socio-economic growth and progress, from which all their policy prescriptions flow, do not explain reality.
Democratic cities and states where environmental standards, workplace protections, unionization rates and taxes-on-the-rich are high attract the most sought-after business investment, have the highest-paid employees and the longest-living residents.
That’s not supposed to happen.
For the right, their worldview prescribes fewer taxes, fewer immigrants, fewer regulations and fewer unions.
But the clear success of cities and states with more taxes, more regulations and more unions presents the right with two choices:
They can revise their theory to stick to reality.
Or they can stick to their theory and revise reality.
The first would require admitting their worldview was wrong. That something was amiss. But admitting you have a problem is hard
So they’ve doubled-down on the second. The right doesn’t love to hate Democratic bastions.
They have to.