Donald Trump and his father defended their family’s real estate empire from housing discrimination claims in the 1970s. The Post reported in 2016:

In October 1973, the Justice Department filed a civil rights case that accused the Trump firm, whose complexes contained 14,000 apartments, of violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
The case, one of the biggest federal housing discrimination suits to be brought during that time, put a spotlight on the family empire led by its 27-year-old president, Donald Trump, and his father, Fred Trump, the chairman, who had begun building houses and apartments in the 1930s. . . .
Many whites were relocating to the suburbs, and minorities often moved in to rent or buy properties. Concern about the issue peaked following race riots that broke out across the country after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Amid growing evidence that landlords were refusing to rent to minorities, Congress acted one week after the King assassination by passing the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned such discrimination.

As is the case in many housing discrimination lawsuits, “White testers were encouraged to rent at certain Trump buildings, while the black testers were discouraged, denied or steered to apartment complexes that had more racial minorities, according to the testimony.” Trump’s defense was that he did not want to rent to people on welfare, “black or white.” The suit, eventually resolved by a settlement, may have taught Trump the wrong lesson — and fixed an antiquated view of the suburbs in his mind.

Fast forward to Trump’s floundering presidential reelection campaign. The Post reported: “The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule, promulgated by the Obama administration in 2015, sought to strengthen [anti-discrimination laws] by requiring local governments receiving federal money to draft plans to desegregate their communities.” Knowing Trump’s background, it was little surprise that “Trump moved last week to repeal that rule, with language that appeared to hark back to an era of Whites distancing themselves from Black Americans.”

Just to make sure the message was not lost on anyone, the president tweeted on Wednesday:

The meaning was obvious to anyone with an understanding of Trump and housing discrimination. Trump is reassuring suburbanites he will protect them from those people — the sort who might have been “discouraged, denied or steered” away by racist real estate owners in the 1970s.

When Trump rolled out repeal of the Obama-era rule last week, Andrew Bates, a spokesman for former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, put out a statement deploring the move. “Over 4 million Americans have now been infected with coronavirus, more than 140,000 have died, and tens of millions have lost their jobs," he said. “But instead of finally leading, Donald Trump is yet again attempting to distract from his catastrophic, failed response to the pandemic by trying to divide our nation.” He added, “Turning Americans against each other with total lies is unacceptable for a commander-in-chief at any time, but it’s especially heinous to do so in a moment of worsening crisis.”

It is hard to quibble with that analysis. Trump, deprived of a record he can run on (because of a pandemic that has killed nearly 150,000 Americans and wrecked the economy), and having revealed himself once more to be bizarrely deferential to Russia (refusing to raise the issue of bounties on U.S. troops during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin), Trump now frequently resorts to the only issue on which he thinks he can rally his base: racism. Whether it is the Confederate flag or characterizing Black Lives Matter demonstrators as a mob of anarchists, Trump has become a one-trick pony.

Of course, the suburbs of 2020 are not the suburbs of the 1970s, in large part because of antidiscrimination enforcement. The suburbs are increasingly diverse (while cities are going through gentrification that makes housing less affordable for many Black and Hispanic owners and renters). But, it seems, in Trump’s mind — the mind that dreamed up “Make America Great Again” — protecting his people from “those” people never goes out of style.

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Civil rights leader Andrew Young, a former U.N. ambassador and congressman, reflects on Rep. John Lewis and the nonviolent tactics they used in the 1960s. (The Washington Post)

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