Black and Republican in the Age of Trump

by
October 2020, no. 425

Black and Republican in the Age of Trump

by
October 2020, no. 425

While on the campaign trail against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Donald Trump appeared to deviate from a scripted speech he was delivering in Dimondale, Michigan. What followed was remarkable: ‘At the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over ninety-five per cent of the African-American vote. I promise you.’ Undaunted by six decades of black voting behaviour and his own poor standing with African-Americans, not to mention the fact that he had yet to defeat Clinton, Trump promised a ‘new deal for black America’ that would spark a decisive black shift to the Republican Party. African-Americans had long been the nation’s most partisan racial group: since 1964, no Republican presidential candidate had won more than fifteen per cent of the black vote, and no Democrat less than eighty-two per cent. Yet Trump, a man with a long and divisive racial history, vowed that he would soon rival Barack Obama for electoral appeal among African-Americans.

In making his pitch to black Americans, Trump focused on some of the stark realities of black urban life – ‘You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs … What the hell do you have to lose?’ – before pledging, ‘I will produce for African-Americans.’ Better jobs, great schools, safe neighbourhoods: these, Trump proclaimed, would be his top priorities for black America.

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