“Look at how much African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those I say the following: what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?”— Donald Trump in Dimondale, Mich. Population 92.7% white, 0.7% African American as of the 2010 Census.
I don’t know how many black people Donald Trump knows, has employed, befriended, or crowned champion on The Apprentice. That’s not the issue here. His claims that the Democratic Party has failed African Americans are every bit as wrong as his delusional claims that he can win 95% of the African-American vote. He is polling at 1% among black voters for a reason.
For over 40 years, the Democratic Party has been my home. And it has been home to the vast majority of black voters in increasing numbers since the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and going back even further to the New Deal and earlier.
This despite the fact that the GOP was the party of Lincoln. The Republican Party would have been the natural home of black voters, but it was the GOP that turned away from us. And at the height of the civil rights struggle, President Lyndon Johnson made a conscious decision to fully commit the Democratic Party to the cause of equality for African Americans, even though he knew that would cost the Democrats the South — and many elections — for at least a generation.
Johnson took up the mantle of the marchers and agitators for justice, pushing for and at times seemingly willing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In addition, he helped to advance the cause of economically struggling Americans of all colors with the Head Start Program and other anti-poverty programs.
And each subsequent Democratic administration has expanded upon those gains with initiatives of its own, leading up to our first African American president, Barack Obama (a man that Trump refused to even concede was born in the United States.)President Obama has made good on the promise of the Democratic Party to African-Americans in myriad ways. His overall policies benefited all Americans with such accomplishments as rescuing us from the Great Recession (African-American unemployment has dropped more than 4 percentage points during his tenure) and finally giving every American greater access to healthcare with the passage of theAffordable Care Act.
Obama also has pursued policies aimed at helping African Americans specifically, such as strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities, launching the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to increase opportunities for boys and young men of color, creating the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, and taking steps to ensure more accountable policing.
Hillary Clinton is firmly on board with expanding and improving upon all of those accomplishments. Trump should just take a look at the page of her campaign website devoted exclusively to issues of racial justice. Compare it to his own campaign’s web page for racial justice. Oops…
Trump doesn’t seem to have a webpage devoted to racial justice. A Google search of the phrase “Donald Trump campaign website racial justice” mostly turns up variations on “Donald Trump racist….” That’s because the hallmark of his candidacy has been incendiary statements designed to divide America and demonize minority communities, from his deplorable birtherism to his “law and order” rhetoric.
Oh, and note to Trump, the African-American community is not “under Democratic control.” African Americans are part of the Democratic Party — an integral part. We’re a valued part of a family. And just like any family, sometimes relationships are rocky. We’ve had disagreements. But we have come out of them stronger and more unified thanks to leaders like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
This is bigger than the differences between two parties. Trump’s own words and deeds have made him a singularly unqualified messenger of any sort of reconciliation. Martin Luther King said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Trump’s support among African Americans will continue to be virtually nil until we see some light and love from his campaign. I’m not holding my breath.
So, let me answer Trump’s question about what we have to lose by forsaking the Democratic Party for “something new.” What we have to lose is a tried and tested relationship with a party that has welcomed African Americans, given us voice, and helped for decades to advance our interests — a party devoted to the well-being of all Americans. I’m proud to be an African American and I’m proud to be a Democrat. MORE