Of the many wide-ranging issues President Donald Trump has spoken about, from the early days of his campaign to tweets from the Oval Office, rising violence in American urban centers is a prevalent talking point. Trump’s often dark and far-from-optimistic views on America was part of the brash messaging that bolstered his White House run, but now that he’s there the time for talk is over.
Of course, every politician faces the reality of the challenges of fulfilling campaign promises and winning legislative battles. And the US executive branch is designed so that no president can wave his wand and enact major change to the country. Trump’s first-week executive orders attempted to cut through the process, but as his initial immigration order suffered setbacks it’s clear he can’t do everything himself – even sending in the Feds, whatever that means.
Critics have labeled a lot of Trump’s talk as fear-mongering, and fact-checkers have been quick to point out the falsehoods he puts out. But Trump’s fears (or at least talking points) related to big-city violence do hold “mostly true” per Politifact, at least for previous years. So there is clearly a violence (and gun) problem in American cities, and specifically Chicago, according to Trump. So what’s the problem?
Action. As with many political issues, action can be divisive and controversial. Fixing Chicago’s violence problem could be both, and will involve more from Trump than calling the city out in his speeches as he did Tuesday night – assailing the city’s thousands shot over the past years as a reality “not acceptable in our society.” Correct, so where’s the plan to fix it?
The Chicago Police Department is currently working to fight the resurgent, emboldened, disorganized, and often random gang violence that has spurred the recent uptick. Their strategy should be changing, and hopefully is, to more forcefully policing of the city’s highest crime neighborhoods such as Englewood and Austin. Progress still has to be made, but that is an area Chicago can help itself in. “Sending in the feds” will only serve to disrupt any progress currently on the table, or even result in an escalation Chicago can’t afford.
The results of Obama-era DoJ audits of police departments nationwide are apparently in jeopardy, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently expressed that he plans to “pull back” on federal look-ins on troubled agencies. One such report by the Justice Department released this year after a long investigation found that Chicago police practices failed citizens and officers alike and that the department infringed on civil rights. While harsh, the report resulted in assurances that the city and DoJ would move forward to improve CPD practices to help protect citizens. In stepping back on such reports and the conversations that resulted, Sessions and Trump do more harm to Chicago policing than “sending in the Feds” could ever do good.
Instead of talking on, or stepping back on progress, Trump could also utilize Betsy DeVos to revitalize Chicago’s failing school system. It’s terrible by all accounts, and thousands of the city’s kids aren’t getting the education or support they need. DeVos was one of Trump’s most scrutinized picks, but what if she managed to look into Chicago and other cities with troubled schools and work to find a solution? It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be meaningful effort from higher up.
Helping the schools and police seem like common-sense solutions to any area affected by crime and violence. Hopefully the Trump administration sees that, and can work on those aspects before any more talking points on carnage and federal troops.