My nephew voted for Trump and will do it again. Here’s why
It was another raucous moment at the family Christmas dinner table when I asked my nephew this question: “You voted for Trump in 2016. Will you vote for him again?” He quickly blurted, “Four more years.” To the barrage of whys and how-could-yous, he offered similar rebuttals to those of 2016. The Democrats hadn’t done a darn thing for blacks worth mentioning. Trump created more jobs for blacks and freed a flock of incarcerated blacks.
I’ve heard these shop-worn GOP talking points from a lot more African Americans like my nephew than we care to admit. They’re almost always hit with a blitz of put-downs and harangues and every attempt under the sun to tick off the colossal damage done and peril Trump poses to blacks. The hectoring didn’t move my nephew and it doesn’t move the untold number of other blacks who see something of value in Trump.
Trump spotted this tiny, and very dangerous, opening early on. He repeatedly bragged that there were a lot of blacks that liked and supported him. He drove that seemingly loopy notion home with well-placed photo-ops and meetings with a handful of high-profile black entertainers, athletes and preachers. He doubled down on this with the launch in 2019 of the group Black Voices for Trump. This would not get an ounce of attention without blacks like my nephew mouthing support.
These supporters translated into some real numbers with significance in 2016. The 8 percent of the black vote Trump got factored out to roughly a half-million votes, topping the totals for GOP presidential contenders Romney in 2012 and McCain in 2008. Another 4 percent of black voters did not support Democratic rival Clinton. This factored out together to over 1 million black votes lost to Clinton, and contributed mightily to Trump’s narrow victory margin in the five states that decided the White House. This raised eyebrows then and should raise them again in 2020.
Trump touched a tiny nerve with his shout that poor, underserved black neighborhoods are supposedly a mess with lousy public schools, high crime and violence, chronic joblessness and poverty. He dumped the blame for that squarely on the Democrats who have run most of these cities for decades. His carefully choreographed appearances with high-profile black preachers was just enough to take the hard edge for some blacks off the image of Trump as a guy with a white sheet under his suit.
There’s more. As far back as the 2004 presidential election, there was a sign that more than a few blacks, most notably conservative evangelicals, were deeply susceptible to GOP conservative pitches on some issues. A considerable number of them voted for Bush that year. The same polls that showed blacks’ prime concern was with bread-and-butter issues — and that Bush’s Democrat rival John Kerry was viewed as the candidate who could deliver on those issues — also revealed that a sizable number of blacks ranked abortion, gay marriage and school prayer as priority issues. Their concern for these issues didn’t come close to that of white evangelicals, but it was still higher than that of the general voting public.
A pack of well-funded black GOP advocacy groups spew the Trump line in periodic ads and as talking heads on the news channels. Their message never varies. They hammer the Democrats for their alleged indifference to and outright abetting of black suffering in the inner cities and tout the GOP’s emphasis on small business, school choice and family values as the best path to black advancement. This pitch has always had some appeal to many blacks. These are the talking points parroted by my nephew, almost verbatim.
Trump cannily tailors the few pitches he makes to blacks to reflect this stock GOP pro-business, free enterprise and healthy economy line as something that blacks can and should embrace.
My nephew and other blacks who voted for Trump, combined with the numbers who didn’t vote at all or didn’t vote for Clinton, helped elect Trump. Their message was that a virulent, unabashed race-baiting GOP guy was a better bet in the Oval Office than any Democrat. Despite the eye-rolling and head-shaking at him, my nephew was one of those who sent that message. The mortal danger is, he said he’ll send it again.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.