While the first presidential debate Sept. 29 left many viewers struggling to grasp more than a few sentences over the often cacophonic battle for the mic, one moment could be heard loud and clear by Chicagoans who chose to tune in.
About an hour into the debate, President Donald Trump called out Chicago as an example of a place where he believes violence has spiked as a product of Democratic leadership — and as a way to push his agenda on “law and order.”
The comment was in response to a question from debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, who asked Trump if he thought the “dramatic increase in homicides” in the U.S., particularly over the summer, was a party issue. Wallace referenced previous remarks from the president where he blamed cities with Democratic leadership for the increase, pointing out there have been similar rises in Republican-run cities also.
In response, Trump reiterated he believes it to be a “party issue,” citing Chicago — with Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot — as one such example.
“If you look at Chicago, what’s going on in Chicago, where 53 people were shot and eight died,” Trump said. “It is crazy what’s going on.”
It’s true the city has seen a 50 percent increase in murders since last year, police data shows. Regardless of the exact numbers, most people who live in Chicago would agree gun violence is a major issue in our city, but repeatedly blaming city leadership while citing scary numbers is the opposite of helpful.
Lightfoot took to Twitter to respond to the debate comments, telling Trump to “keep ‘Chicago’ out of your lying mouth.”
We agree with Lightfoot. Leave Chicago alone unless you want to offer legitimate evidence-based ideas to improve violence in cities like Chicago and fork over the funding to implement change.
We know Chicago can be dangerous, for some more than others. But it’s not fair to chalk up years and years of crime caused by countless factors to “the Democrats” while ignoring the inequity built into the systems in Chicago and other major American cities.
This isn’t the first time Chicago’s shown up in word vomit about violence in cities. The Chicago Tribune has been tracking everything Trump’s said about Chicago since 2015, amounting to more than 50 public statements. Although not every single statement is about violence, a fair amount are.
The statements include tweets and information from interviews, among other things. Trump even wrote a letter to Lightfoot June 26, saying “the people of Chicago deserve better” and pledging the support of his cabinet to help end the violence.
Does the violence seem like it’s ended yet? It seems like he just keeps using violence as a way to bash Democrats and push the agenda of law enforcement. Maybe these constant jabs at our city aren’t so constructive. You’d think since he’s been complaining so frequently about violence he’s never experienced, something might have changed by now?
Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacy shouldn’t come as a surprise when seeing how he talks about Chicago. He talks at length about gun violence in the city, without a single word on the killings of Black people by the Chicago Police Department.
As for those who aren’t in power, we should work toward justice in our communities by listening to the people impacted most about what solutions will actually bring change.
And as Trump continues to botch the federal COVID-19 response, thousands of Black and Latinx Chicagoans have died from the virus — which affects them disproportionately from white people. Many more of them are facing evictions and out of work.
To Trump, Chicago is just a means to an end and a way to push his agenda. His attacks on Chicago are just as much an embrace of white supremacy as his refusal to disown it.
Get it together.