By now, we’ve started to figure out how much of a disaster Tuesday’s election was. The Democratic Party was served one of the most thorough defeats they’ve received this century, and the Electoral College system allowed Donald Trump to win the presidency. This means that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate will likely allow whatever policy proposals Donald Trump proposes to be easily passed.
However, as I sat crying and wide awake Wednesday morning, the tears streaming down my face weren't simply due to the defeat of Hillary Clinton. The city of Detroit was handed an incredible defeat up and down the ballot — a defeat that certainly threatens a lot of the growth that has been happening in Detroit over the last few years.
Most monumentally, a surge of anti-tax Republican voters in the working-class suburbs of Macomb County led to the defeat of the Regional Transit Authority plan, a plan that I endorsed earlier in the year. This defeat means that low-income Detroit residents without cars must continue to endure the worst transit system in America. Additionally, any hopes of establishing any sort of commuter train service to Ann Arbor was defeated in this plan, sentencing Detroit to auto pollution for the foreseeable future.
The losses for Detroit don’t stop there. In one of the most highly contested races of the year, an inability of community groups and business leaders to come together led to the approval of proposal A and the defeat of proposal B, both designed to mandate that businesses receiving tax breaks enter into a legally enforceable contract with neighborhood groups in the surrounding neighborhoods. Proposal A, which was supported by community groups and was organized by grassroots organizations across the city, differed from the Detroit City Council-supported Proposal B only on the threshold of tax breaks.
The difference between the two proposals was the threshold that mandates the community benefits contract. For Proposal A, any contract receiving more than $300,000 in tax abatements would have to enter into a contract with the surrounding neighborhood. This proposal could be beneficial to the neighborhoods, but opponents argued that it would slow down growth and new development. Under Proposal B, the project would have to receive $1 million in order to be forced into the contract with the neighborhood — a limit that prevents many controversial developments from being forced into the contract. In the last 10 years, only Little Caesars Arena — the Detroit Red Wings’ new Midtown arena — would have required a contract with the community. Once the votes were cast, Proposal A was defeated 54 percent to 46 percent, while Proposal B passed 53 percent to 47 percent. This is problematic because rather than coming to a middle-ground conclusion in which community wishes and business interests are respected, the debate over community benefits contracts is largely over with little to no change for the community.
Even races in metro Detroit were bad for Detroit proper. L. Brooks Patterson, long-time Oakland County county executive, won his 7th term in charge of Detroit’s wealthy northern suburbs. Patterson has spent his entire career trying to keep the people of Detroit down in as many ways as possible. He came under fire for an article profiling him titled “Drop Dead Detroit!” in which he said that he wanted to “turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.” Patterson hates Detroit with a burning passion, and his re-election only serves to strain city/suburb relations even more.
Detroit’s Election Day was terrible on the results end and on the voting end. Voters across the city faced incredible barriers to voting, including two-hour waits and broken voting machines. In spite of all of this, voter turnout was higher than in 2012, clocking in at 48.49 percent. However, even with such a high turnout and with 95 percent of the ballots cast in Detroit going to Hillary Clinton, Detroit couldn’t overcome the massive deficit that the rest of the state of Michigan dug itself in to. In the end, the race for Michigan was won by Donald Trump in the suburbs of Macomb County. This county, located northeast of Detroit, is the home of two of the largest municipalities in Michigan and had 67.3 percent of its voters cast a ballot. What sealed the deal for Trump was the appeal of “America first” to the county’s white, working class voters, with 53.6 percent of the normally Democratic county casting their ballots for Trump.
Because of this election, Detroit faces unique problems. In addition to the disastrous "Urban Renewal" proposals — including a reinstatement of unconstitutional "stop and frisk" policies to attempt to reduce crime in urban areas — Trump’s wild economic proposals threaten the industries that make all of southeast Michigan work. On the state level, the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate are as Republican as ever, and Gov. Rick Snyder still holds power, even after his shameful and possibly illegal handling of the Flint water crisis. Republicans in Lansing can continue to not care about Michigan’s urban centers like usual, only this time, there is no end in sight.
In all honesty, this wasn’t just Donald Trump’s fault. It wasn’t the state Republican Party’s fault. It wasn’t the racist L. Brooks Patterson’s fault either. It wasn’t even the fault of the Macomb County Trump voters who turned out to the polls like never before. This election was a failure on all levels to prioritize the needs of cities like Detroit. Everyone — Republican or Democrat — is responsible for the tragedy that fell upon Detroit this election.
Only by getting real with one another about the real issue facing America’s cities can we hope to move forward. Detroit, and other cities, are real places filled with real people, and I hope that the cities of the future aren’t places that have been forgotten by political leaders and suburbanites alike. For now, this election leaves a dark shadow over Detroit, and the years of inequality and pain won’t go away soon. A solution must be found — the future of Detroit depends on it.
Kevin Sweitzer can be reached at email@example.com.