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Trump launches his New York heist He sees a chance for blood in the Bronx

At the Bronx rally (Credit: Selcuk Acar/Anadolu/Getty)

At the Bronx rally (Credit: Selcuk Acar/Anadolu/Getty)


May 24, 2024   5 mins

For decades, Charlotte Street in the South Bronx was a symbol of New York’s urban decay. Riven by crime, unemployment and outright destitution, countless politicians — from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton — would visit the street, decrying the treatment of the residents of this unloved hellscape.

Democrats, by and large, were welcomed. Republicans were not. When Ronald Reagan visited in 1980, he was heckled to such an extent that he cut his visit short. Indeed, his experience was so scarring for the party that few followed in his footsteps for the next 50 years. Some 44 years later, however, no such treatment was visited upon his successor. Just a stone’s throw from Charlotte Street (now a tree-lined road populated by bungalows and 4×4 trucks) lies Crotona Park, where the former president is due to speak.

Thousands are queuing, impatiently, to squeeze through the five makeshift security gates to make it into the main area. Notwithstanding a few secret service personnel attempting to part the red sea of MAGA hats, the crowd is already boisterous. In typical New York fashion, local salesmen are haggling with supporters over the cost of various pieces of Trump merchandise; one offers to sell his Trump-on-the-cross shirt for $50 before slyly upping the price to $60 for his next customer. Another hawks a t-shirt reading “If u still hate Trump after this shitshow your commitment to stupidity is impressive” to a gleeful teenager.

This is Trump’s first rally in his hometown of New York in eight years. But Joe Biden’s lead in the state has slipped from 23% to single digits (9%) this year and there is little sign he is clawing any of that support back. Although the state — and the Bronx — remains solidly blue, it may only take a few seats in the House to give Republicans control of the lower chamber of Congress. Evidently, Trump smells blood.

“We’re gonna win New York and win the whole thing!”

“I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, but I’ve had enough,” Emilio says. “I stayed at home during the last election, but food prices are so bad now there is just no way I’m voting for Biden. I feel betrayed.” Emilio is here with his wife and three young children, who all hold their own “Never Surrender” placard featuring Trump’s mugshot. They’ve managed to secure a prime viewing spot for Trump, who takes to the stage after his day in court in Manhattan.

He is greeted by hordes of supporters, soaking in the adulation with his familiar half-pout. “I’m a New Yorker,” he proudly booms. “Out here, you had to have smarts, grit, and energy — and you had to have heart.” “This is where you came to make it big,” he continues, “but now it is a city in decline.”

It is a point not without merit. Crime may be falling in some areas, but major felony charges which include murder, rape, robbery are on the rise. New York also has the highest per capita government debt in the country, with the state projecting a budget gap of $4.3 billion in fiscal year 2025. This has been turbocharged by the influx of migrants into the city, which is estimated to cost $12 billion over three years, more than the city spends on fire and sanitation services combined. It’s no wonder, then, that the state has the highest emigration rate in the country.

But is Trump the man to fix it? “Name me another politician that would come to deep Bronx like this” Wayne, who is holding a “New York is TRUMP country” sign, says. “It shows that he actually gives a damn — unlike AOC and Biden.” I ask how Trump can fix the city if it is run by Democrats. “Because he’s a goddamn businessman and he knows how to get things done” — a point Trump repeats himself on stage.

Like Wayne, the Bronx crowd is loud, profane and assertive. They are, after all, New Yorkers. They may not look like Trump, but they certainly sound like him. His is the kind of voice that these locals would tune into on a drive home from the Yankees game on a Sunday afternoon, bemoaning the team’s lacklustre performance. Which is why, as Jamie Kirchick of the Brookings Institution accurately observed, everything makes a lot more sense when Trump’s comments are prefaced with “‘Donny from Queens, you’re on the air.” Giving his hot takes on everything from men in women’s sports to New York’s “third-world” subway system at the podium, Donny sees himself as New York’s everyman. He’s the guy who’s going to fix everything. “If a New Yorker can’t save this country, no one can,” he says. “Obviously, only I can save it”.

Although Trump lost the Bronx by more than 300,000 votes in 2020, the swelling crowd suggests many more are now willing to hear what he has to say. He is speaking in the poorest congressional district in the country, and residents here seem tired of decades-long Democratic rule. Juan Ramirez, who works at a nearby bodega, says that his living situation became so serious last year that there were days where he had to choose between paying for fuel or food. “If I wasn’t able to get some food from my bodega, I’m not sure how I would have fed my family.”

Amid Trump’s growing support among ethnic minority groups, Ramirez is one of many Latinos abandoning the Democratic flock. “They took our votes for granted for too long,” he says. “They deserve to be punished for all the pain they’ve put us through.” And if the latest polls are anything to go by, he’s not alone. Some now show the former president edging out Joe Biden among Hispanic voters, with 46% supporting Trump versus 40% in favour of Biden — another reason why Trump may find favour here: the Bronx is 57% Hispanic, 28% black and just 8% white.

Ramirez has more to share, but he is distracted by a ruckus nearby; a group has caught wind of a roving New York Times reporter, who is trying to slink back into the press pack. One of the men confronting the reporter — a friend of Juan’s — is accusing her of furtively filming his exchange with friends. “I said I DID NOT WANT TO TALK to crooked media,” he screams at her. The message is received.

The crowd might have once been the Democrats’ rainbow coalition: in addition to Latinos, African-Americans and white voters, there are native Americans, Orthodox Jews, and even Albanians dressed in traditional clothing. All punctuate Trump’s speech with “let’s go Brandon!” and “USA, USA!” as he detours into an extended tangent about the importance of brine in ice rinks or starts reading lyrics from Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’. And just as he feels that he might be losing them, Trump dials up the enthusiasm. “What a crowd!” He says. “This is like a love fest — I love you! Who said we’re not gonna win New York? We’re gonna win New York and win the whole thing!”

It is highly unlikely that Trump will, in fact, win New York. It has been 44 years since a Republican won the state and Biden won it handily in 2020. But green shoots for the GOP are starting to emerge: for the first time in 40 years, a Republican was elected to a city council seat in the Bronx. In Queens, the incumbent Republican Vickie Paladino was overwhelmingly re-elected against a Democratic challenger whom she beat by only a few hundred votes in 2021. Trump may not be the ultimate beneficiary of these changes, but he is certainly an accelerant.

Back in 2020, Biden ran a successful campaign by promising a return to normality. Most of the country, Democrats included, would concede that, on this score, he failed. Stubbornly high food and gas prices, two costly wars, and a crisis on the border, it is now Trump who claims to be the “common sense” candidate. As the only candidate to face 92 felony charges in an election year, this is a tall claim. But given that Biden, who has record low job approval polling, is trailing in nearly all of the swing states, Trump fever now appears to be spreading to the Democrats’ innermost strongholds. Even if New York doesn’t turn red, this rally was the surest signal yet that Republicans are feeling increasingly confident about parking their tanks on the Democrats’ lawn.


is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.

james_billot

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Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
30 days ago

Trump is Reagans predecessor?

Dillon Eliassen
Dillon Eliassen
30 days ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

That typo aggravated me as well.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
30 days ago

But is Trump the man to fix it?
‘Fixing it’ is not really that difficult a task. All he has to do is collapse the oil price by removing the ‘green’ barriers to production. The US economy will boom as never before.
All this austerity we’re experiencing at the moment is entirely artificial.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
29 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Scorch the earth and watch the good times roll like never before, maybe forever. Just be sure not to live near the center of the frack zones, or get used to flaming water on tap at no extra charge.
I’d say you never met a superlative you didn’t like, but that’s not entirely fair.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
29 days ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The ‘flaming water on tap’ thing is an urban myth debunked long ago.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
29 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Wrong. I’ve seen documentary footage, in no way doctored. You seem to credit almost anything that supports your hardened worldview, even if it comes from the frackers and Big Oil concerns themselves. Granted, most of us are guilty of a version of that, me included.
Your eff-the-environment economic “solution” seems too simple and convenient to be true.
https://www.propublica.org/article/scientific-study-links-flammable-drinking-water-to-fracking#:~:text=For%20the%20first%20time%2C%20a%20scientific%20study%20has%20linked%20natural,can%20be%20lit%20on%20fire.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
27 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Some of the shale gas includes ethane so it would boost chemicals industry as well.

Daniel P
Daniel P
30 days ago

I’m not so sure I would write off his chances of carrying NY or NJ.

Are the odds against him? Yes

But for him to be within single digits in NY says a lot and given that A) Trump traditionally polls lower than the votes he gets and B) the shy Trump voter is gonna be just that much more shy in NY, says that that 9% is probably closer to 5% and THAT is something that can be moved.

That said, if all he does is force Biden and the democrats to play some defense in their home turf, invest time and money, that is a win for Trump.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
30 days ago

“Launches his heist.” Was there not a more loaded word available? Like many blue cities, NY is dealing with left-inflicted problems. That would be true if all Trump were doing was real estate.
Back in 2020, Biden ran a successful campaign by promising a return to normality.—// He ran on not being Trump. Biden also talked about being a uniter and has spent his time letting half the country know how much he hates it while allowing the wholesale importation of feral migrants who are crashing local budgets.
You don’t have to like Trump to recognize that the husk-in-chief who can’t deliver his lines half the time is not the answer. Unless the goal is the further deterioration of the country and another step in the fundamental transformation his former boss talked about.

Ryan K
Ryan K
29 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I was gonna write something but you really covered it….including that “loaded” headline.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
30 days ago

A few quibbles. 1. The migrants did not “emigrate” to NYC. They were sent there in buses by Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas. (And Ron De Santis of Florida sent some as well.) Chicago received just as many. Most of these people had no jackets to protect them for the cold winter temperatures. Whatever you think of illegal immigrants, they are human. 2. The Trump is a great businessman argument. Trump was a multimillionaire when he was a toddler, thanks to his father’s financial expertise in hiding money. Over the course of his career, he declared bankruptcy six times, and his father saved him from more bankruptcies with an infusion of money. Trump is most famous for refusing to pay for the work done on his properties. Small business owners—plumbers, electricians and others—received little to no payments. Illegal Eastern Europeans who worked on the demolition of the site that would become Trump Tower were left out to dry. It went to court, and Donny had to pay them $25 million. I’m running out of space. You get the idea.

G M
G M
30 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

They declared themselves to be ‘sanctuary’ cities and apparently thought illegal migrants were great, so Texas and Florida sent some there.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
30 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Doing business with Trump is NOT a good idea. Voting for him is different.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
29 days ago

Trump loses New York in a landslide.
He loses the election in another landslide!
Maybe then you MAGA clowns will wake up from whatever fever dream has taken a hold of you and realize that fat crooks in clown makeup are not the best leaders of your cult.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
29 days ago

Don’t be a sillyhead, CS!

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
29 days ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Oh goodie! We have an election truther among us. This will be fun!

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
29 days ago

People are waking up (unlike becoming woke) and recognizing that the policies of the Democrat party are not working for them. High prices, climate fixation, racial monetization (as in more and more DEI training that never seems to do the trick), an open south border and more Palestinian flags and than American ones can be address by voting differently this fall.