That perspective shared by the mayors of almost all large U.S. cities and many others in Europe views immigrants as a source of economic and cultural vitality, trade as an engine of prosperity, and integration of Muslim communities as the central defense against radicalization and terror. “We play straight into the hands of the extremists and terrorists when we [say]…it’s not possible to hold Western values and to be a Muslim,” Khan wrote last week in the Chicago Tribune. “It makes it easier for terrorists to radicalize young people. And it makes us all less safe...”
All of this collides with the bristling defensive nationalism championed by Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen and nativist parties like UKIP in England and Alternative for Deutschland in Germany. These voices raise alarms against trade and immigration and portray greater restrictions and surveillance as the key to fighting Islamic terror. Stressing isolation over integration, Trump responded to the New York attacks by reiterating his calls for limiting Middle Eastern immigration and expanding law enforcement profiling of “people that maybe look suspicious.”
Almost everywhere, these messages have struggled in large urban areas and resonated in smaller places, especially those that have little tradition of racial diversity or have lost manufacturing jobs to trade. In last June’s “Brexit” referendum in the UK on the European Union, big majorities of residents in London and its thriving information-economy suburbs voted to remain, while those living in rural areas and economically strained smaller cities provided the leave campaign (which stressed anti-immigrant messages) with its narrow majority. In Berlin’s regional elections last weekend, the anti-immigrant, anti-globalization AfD party won only about 14 percent of the vote-enough to establish a foothold but less than it anticipated, or had carried in recent regional elections in rural East Germany. Likewise, the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton is virtually certain to widen an already imposing metropolitan divide: in 2012, President Obama won America’s 100 largest counties by a combined margin of 12 million votes while losing the other 3,000 by about seven million votes.
Adjusting for national differences, the mayors of global cities are largely coalescing around agendas antithetical to the Trump vision. “There are 50 cities, maybe 100, that are the intellectual, cultural and economic engine of the world,” Emanuel said in an interview shortly after Khan left Chicago. “We are all working on the same things because we face similar opportunities. We have to make our cities competitive. The jobs and companies we talk about are not only global but mobile.”
This modern urban agenda revolves around investment in infrastructure and education (ranging from expanded pre-school to tuition-free post-secondary education); welcoming immigrants; support for small business and information-age technology start-ups; promoting more dense development (Khan toured Chicago’s impressive riverfront development as a possible model for the Thames); embracing renewable energy as both an economic engine and environmental imperative; and with only a few exceptions (like deBlasio) supporting more international trade. The common theme, Emanuel says, is to create a “platform for private sector growth” while advancing equity and inclusion.