Trump's Outreach to Black Voters
Updated: Feb 12
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on February 11, 2020
I have written numerous articles about Donald J. Trump since he announced his candidacy for President in 2015. I have strongly criticized many of his policies and actions as president. On Super Bowl night, I finally realized something very important about Trump that I have never mentioned before -- nobody sets Trump's political agenda but him.
Trump runs the presidency with an ironclad fist. By all accounts, Trump maintains a dictatorial grip on his White House staffers, cabinet appointees, and other top administration officials. Many Republican members of Congress, who privately express their dislike of Trump, live in fear of him because Trump and his Fox talk show media allies will scourge any public figure who openly criticizes the President.
Trump has been called many things -- racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, crude, narcissistic, corrupt, unfit, and morally bankrupt, to name a few. Trump's friends, allies, supporters, and foes all agree that the President has a multitude of character flaws.
By Objective Standards, Trump's Presidency Has Been Successful
President Trump has been on a roll in recent months. He seems to be getting things done while Democratic members of Congress and the Party's presidential candidates appear to be twisting in the wind.
The Democratic Party is in a state of turmoil because Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay candidate, won the Iowa caucuses last week. Buttigieg is fairing much better in the primaries than Party favorite, former vice president Joe Biden.
Already this year, Trump has renegotiated and signed America's trade deals with Mexico and Canada. He has also signed a new trade deal with China. These trade deals are major accomplishments and are favorable for American workers and consumers.
The economy is booming. The stock markets are sky high. Unemployment is at a record low. And, Trump gave American taxpayers and corporations a much-appreciated tax cut.
Trump's federal court appointments are moving at a record pace. Trump has already appointed, and the Senate has confirmed more judges in three years than Barack Obama seated on the federal bench in 8 years.
Trump has not started any new wars. Instead, he has withdrawn U.S. troops from hot zones in the Middle East and other foreign territories.
Super Bowl Sunday was the Beginning of Trump's Direct Pitch for Black Votes
On Super Bowl Sunday, Trump found his own way to appeal directly to black voters. He eschewed the traditional approach of using "Uncle Toms" and black politicians to act as surrogates for targeting and securing black voters. It appears that Trump does not want or need this readily available pool of subservient surrogates. As he has done with his outreach to white voters, Trump spoke directly to black voters that night.
During a TV audience of 103 million predominantly white viewers, Trump rolled out a very powerful political ad about his commutation of Alice Marie Johnson's life sentence for a drug and money laundering charge. Ms. Johnson was 63-years-old when Trump freed her. She is a great-grandmother who served almost 23 years for a first-time, non-violent offense. In the ad, Trump noted that he had the courage to free Ms. Johnson while Obama left her to languish in prison for the rest of her life.
In December 2018, President Trump signed the First Step Act over the objection of white conservatives. The Act is the most significant piece of criminal justice reform legislation in recent decades.
Recognizing that the federal criminal justice system is "rigged",that many federal prosecutors are "corrupt,” that FBI agents are "scum", and that black defendants are sentenced more harshly for the same crimes committed by their white counterparts, Trump used the First Step Act and the power of his office to remedy the glaring racial disparity in the sentences handed down to black inmates by pro-prosecution federal judges who were appointed by Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Interestingly, the President's description of the federal criminal justice system mirrors the honest view held by most African-American voters. This is particularly true in the light of the well-documented history of: (a) COINTELPRO (1956 to 1971), (b) the "Good Ol' Boys Roundup" (1980 to 1995), and (c) the U.S. Bureau of Prison's current statistics on the racial disparity between black and white inmates in the federal prison system.
Trump's First Step Act seeks to drastically reduce the federal inmate population for non-violent, first-time offenders. The Act provides an early release for tens of thousands of black inmates who were charged with non-violent offenses and who are participating in a host of innovative educational programs offered by the Bureau of Prisons. The Act also reduces the original term of imprisonment by one-third for qualified non-violent inmates who are 60-years-old and older. On top of these reductions, inmates may earn 54 days of "good time" credits for each year of their sentence. Finally, inmates can earn additional "good time" credits by attending and passing designated educational and re-entry programs.
In his State of the Union speech last week, President Trump asked Congress to expand opportunities for scholarships for deserving black students who are hopelessly trapped in failing urban public schools. These scholarships will give inner city students an opportunity to attend alternative schools that enhance their chances of receiving a high-quality education.
Trump also championed "opportunity zone" tax incentives which are aimed at funnelling investment money in low-income urban areas.
Will Black Voters Give Trump a Chance?
Will black voters look past President Trump's inflammatory rhetoric and take notice of the concrete policies and measurable actions he has taken that favorably impact African-Americans? Trump received 8% of the black vote in 2016. It will be interesting to see whether this number increases in the 2020 presidential election.
Traditionally, black voters tend to support the Democratic Party's nominee, regardless of the person's electability or track record of supporting programs that enhance the quality of life of African-Americans. For reasons that are deeply rooted in America's history of disenfranchisement of African-Americans, Black voters have never made either political party work for their votes.
The passage of time will help us gauge the effectiveness of Trump's direct appeal to black voters.