Despite a traditionally low number of African Americans choosing to vote for Republican presidential candidates, the GOP is still making a case for Black votes as the 2020 presidential election draws even closer.
The Republican National Committee has launched a Get Out The Vote initiative to target voters of color in urban areas. Three states where volunteers are knocking on doors to engage people are Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, all critical, battleground states for the Donald Trump re-election campaign. The committee has also launched a voter contact initiative blitz, which it described as “seven-figure.” Also, a “very robust eight-figure” Black media ad-buy blitz, although officials did not specify an exact dollar amount.
“The RNC is spending millions of dollars on the most robust national Black engagement program in modern history and is aggressively going after the Black vote. We know that you must meet voters where they are and talk to them about shared values,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniels.
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The party’s Black outreach arm, known as Black Voices For Trump (which is said to have 15 community centers nationwide), has been pitching their perspective on re-electing the president and offering an alternative to Democrats, which they maintain has not benefited African Americans for decades, despite the community’s overwhelming support.
Pew Research Center data shows that over the past 20 years, Democrats have enjoyed a lengthy advantage with Black, Hispanic and Asian registered voters. About 83 percent of Black people either identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, as opposed to 10 percent identifying or leaning Republican. Most political watchers do not expect that to change much in the 2020 election.
This is partially because of the controversial rhetoric from the Trump camp ranging from accusations of supporting white supremacists to putting an end to Obamacare to the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic which has disproportionately affected the Black community over the course of the last several months.
Paris Dennard, Senior Communications Advisor for RNC Black Media Affairs, counters all of this by defending Trump’s record. He challenges Black voters to reevaluate the Biden-Harris campaign’s intentions saying that the President never uttered the racist phrases that are attributed to him and the fault lies with the media.
“There is a false narrative out there, even about Charlottesville” Dennard told BET.com. “A false narrative about what he did say and what he did not say. We give them chapter and verse one what he said every single time to denounce these hate groups.”
To be fair, Trump has actually disavowed white supremacist groups in the past. For example, although he did say “very fine people on both sides,” it was taken as a compliment to the white sumremacists who showed up at the 2017 rally, including one who struck and killed a demonstrator with his car. At the time, Trump also issued a statement calling white supremacists “repugnant.”
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Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped far right extremists who publicly support Trump from emerging like QAnon and the Proud Boys, which Trump, during the first presidential debate said to “stand back and stand down.”
But when asked about that and other rhetoric, Dennard points back to the Biden-Harris campaign. “On the other hand tell us when Biden and Harris denounced ANTIFA, which has been destroying communities,” he said.
“From our perspective we want to have a conversation about race because for 47 years Biden has been in a position of power and leadership and really does not have a record of being a champion of issues with Black communities. The fact is that Joe Biden called us ”predators” and a whole bunch of things disparaging Black people on the Senate floor.”
The Plan To Strengthen Black America
Dennard makes a case turning to Biden and the 1994 Crime Bill he sponsored in the Senate. Biden has been blamed for an increase in Black incarceration as a result of that bill. Although the term “superpredator” cannot be attributed to Biden (but rather Hillary Clinton), he did utter the phrase "predators on our streets" who were "beyond the pale" in 1993 in support of the legislation. But there is no evidence that comment was targeted to Black people specifically.
Concerning the coronavirus pandemic, which in polls has severely hampered Donald Trump’s campaign, and represents 1 in 920 Black deaths, according to APM Research Lab, Dennard is also defensive, saying Biden called Trump “xenophobic” when all he did was shut down travel from China early to mitigate the spread of the disease. Trump has said as much in his campaign messaging and yet, the coronavirus pandemic has killed 220,000 Americans.
“President Trump listened to the experts and the data and made a decision,” he said. “The facts are there would be 2 million lives lost.
“When you look at what COVID-19 did do, it highlighted the severity of the health conditions of many in the Black community, the president mobilized the [White House Opportunity Zone and] Revitalization Council headed by Scott Turner to focus on this.
“The surgeon general who could have been affected himself understood this. That allowed more resources to come in, when it comes to vulnerable communities. Black people got what they needed in terms of PPE and ventilators,” Dennard said.
He noted that large protest events in various cities throughout the summer created a greater risk for spreading coronavirus, but that the media emphasized events like Trump’s campaign rallies where few masks were worn. To be fair, demonstrators in general didn’t wear masks either. And yet, New York saw the largest sustained demonstrations in the country and as of October, the state is retaining lower spread rates than the rest of the nation.
“Are there people who choose to do that when they go to protests and big events? Yes. But the media only wants to target Republican ones and say those are issues for COVID,” said Dennard.
Dennard was reminded that an Oklahoma Trump rally resulted in the death of former GOP presidential candidate and Trump supporter Herman Cain and that the state, among others, are seeing increasing COVID-19 spread rates.
Coronavirus is one of the many topics that the RNC is saying Trump has actually curtailed for the benefit of Black people. The party also cites $85 million in permanent funding for HBCUs; the First Step Act, which addresses prison reforms and has resulted in some high-profile pardons of former felons like Alice Johnson; and “Opportunity Zones,” which the administration has said will economically empower Black communities.
Reaching For The Undecided Voter
Dennard also brought up rapper 50 Cent’s recent endorsement this week of President Trump over what he felt was too high of a tax rate proposed by the Democrats and Ice Cube’s discussions about his “Contract WIth Black America,” with the Trump campaign, which is said to be used to augment Trump’s “Platinum Plan.” Cube has however publicly said that while he did meet with the campaign, he is supporting neither side in this election.
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Denard sees Ice Cube and 50 Cent as examples of the way many Black people are feeling in the country who are ultimately still undecided. He believes they can be convinced to support the President, despite the controversies and negativity that follows him.
“I’m talking about the independent minded Black people who said let's cut the BS and give me the data,” Dennard said. “That’s who we’re going to try to reach. I don’t think everybody’s mind is made up and I think that small percentage can make the difference.”