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The racist rhetoric behind accusing largely Black cities of voter fraud

Washington(CNN) Ever since Joe Biden was declared President-elect earlier this month, the Trump campaign has made a target of cities, falsely accusing them of voter fraud and corruption.

But not all cities. Really just cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee -- cities that either are majority Black or have large Black populations.

During a press conference on Thursday, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, brought another heavily Black city into the picture: Camden, New Jersey.

"You knew if you lived in Philadelphia. Unless you're stunod -- that's an Italian expression for stupid -- unless you're stupid, you knew that a lot of people were coming over from Camden to vote," he said. "They do every year. Happens all the time in Philly. ... And it's allowed to happen because it's a Democrat (sic), corrupt city, and has been for years. Many, many years. And they carried it out in places where they could get away from it."

Such claims are dangerous and bad not only because they're free of facts -- but also because they use the same racist messaging that's defined the Trump administration for the past four years.

As my CNN colleague Harry Enten explained this week, the fact that big cities in battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin broke for Biden isn't what thwarted Trump's quest for reelection. The suburbs are why the President lost.

"Biden won because he was able to build on the traditional Democratic strength in the big cities by expanding his support into the suburban areas right outside of them," Enten wrote. "There wasn't any grand conspiracy by big city machines. Trump simply got beat because suburban voters were tired of him."

And yet, the Trump campaign has said little about suburban voters. Instead, it's stuck to rhetoric as old as Jim Crow, rhetoric that most leaders of the Republican Party are nurturing with their silence: that Black votes shouldn't count.

The contempt for Black voters' political power is more than rhetoric, though. For the Republican Party, which has grown increasingly allergic to rules and reality, it's also a driver of strategy.

"This is perhaps the most consequential election for African Americans and people of color since the election of 1860, or at least since 1960 or 1964," the University of California, Berkeley School of Law professor Bertrall Ross said in September. "What we're seeing in the (Trump) campaign now is the same voter suppression practices we have seen historically to target African Americans and other people of color. But this time, those who promote voter suppression will have the pandemic as both a justification for voter suppression practices and a tool to support the practices."

Just on Tuesday, Trump personally called two Republican canvass board members from Michigan's Wayne County -- which includes majority-Black Detroit -- in a vertiginous attempt to overturn the outcome of the election he lost.

During a press call last week, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, offered as sharp an articulation of the Trump campaign's efforts to steal the election as might be possible.

"Really the themes that we see, that persist, are this: Black people are corrupt, Black people are incompetent and Black people can't be trusted," she said. "That's the narrative that is continually espoused by the Trump campaign and their allies in these lawsuits."

It might be easier to denounce the above actions in less withering terms. But to do so would be to abet a campaign attempting to do something truly ugly -- overturn the votes of millions of Americans -- in plain sight.