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Will Trump’s Appeal to Black Voters Work?

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If Trump can get this message heard, it may resonate with more African Americans. However, it’s going to be difficult.

Trump’s outreach to black voters will likely have mixed results

African-Americans have been voting about 90% Democrat since the LBJ era.  Sometimes, Republicans make an effort to reach out to them, usually with nominal success.  In this last Presidential Primary, the Republicans missed a real opportunity with Rand Paul, who actually was gaining popularity with African Americans for his willingness to address the realities of institutional racism in our criminal justice system.  

However, “law and order” Trump has, much to my surprise, recently attempted to bring his message to the black community .

The Breakdown of Trump’s message

  1. Law and order comes first!  The black community suffers from higher levels of crime than the rest of the country, and desperately needs strong police protection.
  2. Most African-Americans are peaceful people, and unfortunately have to live in fear of violent crime.
  3. Poverty in the black community is a serious barrier to their advancement.
  4. Both illegal immigration and bad trade deals contribute to said poverty
  5. Democrats have taken black voters for granted

How will it resonate with the black community?

I think Trump is aware that there is considerable mistrust in the black community towards the police, including from the majority who are, indeed, peaceful law abiding American citizens.  Trump, to his credit, is not a panderer.  He’s not going to call out “super predators” one day and then tell white people “check your privilege” the next, depending on which demographic he’s trying to win at a particular moment.

However, Trump doesn’t get it. Yes, crime is a major problem that afflicts the black community.  Yes, there seems to be a pattern lately of assuming that whenever there is a police shooting of a black person, the police officer is guilty until proven innocent, and when proven innocent, he’s still guilty.  (Take the Michael Brown case for example.)  But the black Americans especially have legitimate grievances with many police officers and departments.

Senator Tim Scott, for example, opened up about the injustices he’s faced as a black man with a nice car driving through the wrong neighborhoods.  Now Tim Scott is a Republican, and unlikely therefore to win over any significant portion of black voters in South Carolina.  His voting base in SC is probably whiter than Trump’s.  Therefore, he has nothing to gain politically by making this up.

The animosity towards police by the majority of the black community is likely rooted in their much higher likelihood of being pulled over, or being stopped and questioned, or searched.  This animosity escalates into the kinds of tension that leads to violence and police shootings.

So, as Trump starts by hammering his points about law and order, many blacks will be turned off very quickly.  However, his later points about crime, about the mother walking her kids to school, etc. these will resonate with some.  I’ve seen it myself.  I have, in the past, worked in private security.  I have covered posts in predominantly black neighborhoods.  I’ve had black women request that I watch them to their cars, or to their offices, because they don’t want to be “attacked by thugs” (their words, not mine).  

So, Trump’s message will likely reach a few.  On FB, a “political friend” (what I call people I’ve friended purely just to argue politics) made a sarcastic, but probably correct statement that Trump might double down his black support from 1% to 2%.

What about jobs?

When it comes to outsourcing, the black community suffers the most.  As skilled laborers, often with limited access to higher education, they benefit from good paying manufacturing jobs.  With a solid income, they have hope of sending their children to college and launching them towards a better future.  Trump did discuss how outsourcing, and illegal immigration affects the black community.  (For the record, I’m skeptical of his claim on illegal immigration, but that’s another topic.)  But certainly the perception is that illegal immigrants take jobs and work under the table for less money.

If Trump can get this message heard, it may resonate with more African Americans.  However, it’s going to be difficult.  I doubt too many African Americans tune in to hear Trump’s whole speech.  More that likely, they see the clips that the mainstream media chooses to show.  From what I’ve seen, the media has been fair at least regarding this particular speech.  But still, it’s a 50 minute speech and they only show 15 seconds here and there.  The line about black children walking to school is an important one to show, and the media has shown it.  But I wonder if most African Americans have even considered Trump’s positions on trade, and how outsourcing had made it so much more difficult for them to ascend to their rightful place in the historically mostly white American middle class.

“The Black Vote”

I’ve noticed a little while longer that black voters are getting sick of voting Democrat and getting nothing.  Think about it!  They’ve been through hell in this country no doubt, but they’ve come a long way.  But the last significant progress they saw was in the 1960s.  Blacks were pretty divided between the two parties in the 1960s.  Martin Luther King sometimes supported Republicans, like Eisenhower, and other times Democrats, like Kennedy.  But MLK always cautioned against throwing support entirely behind one party and encouraged blacks to be Independents.  

As someone who cares about equality for all my fellow citizens, my advice to my fellow Americans of African descent is this – whatever you think of Trump, it’s time to send a message to the Democratic Party that you will not be taken for granted anymore.  Nominating Hillary Clinton was a slap in the face.  Hillary Clinton, who passionately supported the devastating “Crime Bill” of 1994.  Hillary Clinton, who less than a year ago said she’d “only speak to white people”.

I know Trump doesn’t get it when it comes to institutional racism in the criminal justice system.  If good jobs aren’t reason enough for you to hold your noses and vote Trump, maybe consider a protest vote for a third party candidate.  Maybe you’ll like Jill Stein?  

So will Trump reach black voters?

I stopped making predictions about Trump when Cruz dropped out.  But I will discuss the possibilities.  Despite very predictable voting patterns, like anyone else, each African American is his or her own person.  It isn’t like “the black vote” has to be either 95% Democrat, or 95% Republican.  I’m sure white Democratic elites, taking the black vote for granted as they do, will arrogantly assert their continued claim on “the black vote” as long as they have a majority.  But what if, say, 20% of black voters went Republican?  What about 30%?  It can happen gradually, and I think Trump hopes to make some inroads, some modest gains.  The pasty white liberals will scoff, and arrogantly proclaim that blacks will never vote Republican by more than 5%.  Let them scoff.  I’m sure the Republicans did too after the Civil War, when they started taking black voters for granted.

 

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About the author

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is not talking politics, Richard is an aspiring novelist, and culinary hobbyist. Richard holds MSc from London School of Economics in Political Science.