Anyone with the fortitude to endure President Donald Trump’s wearisome campaign rally Saturday in Tulsa might have caught a passing reference to Baltimore. Was it regarding the city’s improving coronavirus numbers? Its more peaceful approach to Black Lives Matter protests? Was it about the 64th anniversary of the integration of the city’s public pools on June 23? You know better than that. President Trump regards Baltimore “as flies to wanton boys,” as the Bard might observe, meaning with both disdain and callous indifference.
The reference was to the city’s homicide rate comparing it to that of El Salvador, Guatemala and Afghanistan. And it was purely to make a point about Democratic leadership. He made no mention — as he spoke the day after Juneteenth and not far from the site of the worst massacre of African Americans in U.S. history — of the awful legacies at work in Baltimore and other cities, ranging from racial discrimination to the failed drug war to concentrated poverty, and on and on. Mr. Trump isn’t about fixing inequities; he’s about exploiting them.
Given that the president also mentioned Baltimore just four days earlier to decry the police department’s failure to solve 68% of homicides last year and last year’s attacks on the city’s litter and rodent population, it’s clear that he sees attacking Charm City as being in his political interest. But the president may want to pause and look around. If the 2020 campaign is going to be about which party should be held accountable for the nation’s social ills, the Republican nominee may find himself holding the short end of the stick. By any reasonable measure of quality of life, including the most basic measure of life and death, it’s not the blue states that are coming up short, it’s those under the firm control of the GOP.
Take the infant mortality rate, for example. That’s the number of deaths for every 1,000 live births. It’s a key measure of the physical health of a community. And most Americans regard preserving those youngest of lives as a high priority. So which states are the worst at that? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list these at the top: Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Or what about the other end of life: Which states have the shortest average life span even before the COVID-19 pandemic? That would be Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Then there’s average household income, where West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico bring up the rear. Of those, only New Mexico qualifies as a blue state in that list. It also happens to be one of seven states with a 16% or higher poverty rate. The other six are red states, of course.
We could go on. But the irony here — lost too often on many of President Trump’s supporters, alas — is that these states and the shorter, more difficult lives their residents face have much in common with Baltimore. They, too, are trapped by their pasts, by systemic discrimination against people of color and longtime poverty, by substance abuse and lack of economic opportunity. What the nation needs now is not for Joe Biden or any other Democrat to be a blue state version of President Trump and mock Mississippi or Louisiana. What we need in the next president is someone who can rally the nation to improve the lives of the forgotten, the downtrodden, the ignored. How awful that President Trump could speak for so long in Oklahoma without once addressing the worst problems facing the Sooner State because they don’t fit his campaign narrative of places controlled by Democrats being bad and places run by Republicans good. It’s all just another deception from a tireless spewer of them.
As Baltimore native and 1966 McDonogh School grad John Bolton has observed, if belatedly: The 45th president is unfit for office and a “danger for the republic.” Polls show even red state denizens seem to be gradually recognizing that, which we take as a sign that his time for dishonoring himself, the presidency and the country will soon be coming to a close. So mock us all you want, Mr. Trump. Baltimore has survived bombardment from the British; it will surely survive bombast from you.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.