In 2016, Donald Trump received a slightly higher share of the black vote than did Mitt Romney in 2012 or John McCain in 2008. But he still received just 8 percent.
Now black support for Trump is in the mid-30s. While a 30 percent approval rating doesn’t necessarily translate into a 30 percent vote-share from black Americans in 2020, 30 percent approval is significant. Even if black support for Trump were in the mid-teens on election day, that could swing states like Michigan, Florida, and even Minnesota solidly into Trump’s camp.
Some of this increased black support is due to a historically low unemployment rate for black Americans, along with hefty income gains for many black Americans, as working-class and blue-collar wages finally begin to outpace managerial wages. Another reason is surely Trump’s criminal justice reform efforts.
Other issues include school choice, which blacks resoundingly support — and likely propelled Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to victory in 2018, because a group of black mothers swung in his favor.
The Disconnect Between Black America and Democrats
There’s a tremendous chasm between the black American working class and the Democratic Party. On issues such as education and abortion, huge polling gaps emerge between Democratic whites and blacks. Even among Democrats who are politically active, one-third of black Democratic primary voters say abortion should be illegal all the time, compared to only 3 percent of white Democratic primary voters.
On economics too, better-off white liberals have little in common with the priorities of many black voters. Most black voters would rather talk about wages, social mobility, and fairness, in stark contrast to those who obsess over pronouns and climate change. And when many Democrats talk economics, they talk about student debt bailouts, which would disproportionately benefit the relatively better-off.
Stating the obvious, a coalition that includes white, left-wing college graduates on one hand — who insanely compare LGBT issues to being black in the South during Jim Crow — and socially conservative, black Christians on the other, is irrational and absurd. Black America suffers terribly when transgender rights are considered the new civil rights, abortion is treated as a sacrament, and gender fluidity is assumed to be more important than jobs and economic mobility.
Overall, only a fifth of black voters (and less than a quarter of Latino voters) describe themselves as very liberal. Half of black American voters say they are moderate or conservative. In the words of one author, “[T]he Democrats have shed working class whites, but black voters, once a tilting force, are becoming the new working-class whites, frustratingly more conservative and less radical than the Left would like.”
Given this, it isn’t good enough for Trump to get 15 percent or even 25 percent of the black vote. He should aim for at least one-third of the black vote in 2020. With such a feat, American politics could truly become post-racial, as both parties would actually compete for black votes. Black America, and all of America, would benefit tremendously.
Why Many Black Americans Approve of Trump
Deeper factors are at play in Trump’s growing black support, beyond a checklist of issues a Republican political consultant would cook up.
Much of Trump’s rising support among black America is due to Trump’s unconventional but foundational conservatism. Trump won by touting the American working class, nationalism, and cultural conservatism. Given that many black Americans are working class, culturally conservative, love their country, and wish to see a politically and economically post-racial America, it makes sense that this foundational platform would jive with working-class voters, white or black.
But black America won’t come over to the GOP unless the conservative party directly addresses issues affecting black communities. We can talk about the minimum wage’s harmful effects on many young black males’ first-job prospects, but that doesn’t address the main problem: After rapid deindustrialization, many men are facing a lack of working-class jobs.
Blacks left the Republican Party mostly during the Great Depression because President Franklin Roosevelt focused on working-class issues and spoke directly to the common man and woman. Any effort to bring black Americans back to the GOP must involve doubling down on Trump’s working-class focus. Trump can accomplish this huge task of bringing black Americans back into the Republican Party in 2020 by running on a “Contract with Black America,” which has three points: the cessation of black pain, black economic equality, and American families first.
The Cessation of Black Pain
Borrowing from Adrian Norman, this point has a rhetorical element. Trump must go into black communities, talk, and listen. He must acknowledge that blacks have received an unfair deal in America for too long, but point out that Democrats’ efforts are only making things worse.
First, black Americans have been shortchanged on the public services government is supposed to provide. Too many poor black kids are assigned to bad schools, and too many young black men have been incarcerated. Here Trump should find ways to get states to mirror his federal criminal justice reform efforts.
On education, Trump should start with an overhaul of the federal Title I funding formula, which hugely affects urban schools. States and localities that don’t stand in the way of charter schools should be awarded. On the campaign trail, Trump should slam local politicians who are blocking charters and school choice.
Public schools in urban areas must be made better too. To get better teachers in urban public schools, the formula should give more federal money to states that release school districts from union-demanded pay scales that punish top teachers. This would set local districts free to explicitly pay more to smart people who have better job options, especially in the math, science, and special education fields, which are all hurt by socializing teacher pay scales.
Title I dollars should also be used to incentivize states to end the accrediting cartel. States should recognize teacher credentialing from private accreditation organizations as equivalent in worth to state credentials, and offer certification reciprocity with other states. Teacher credentialing is a major cash cow for state universities, but it saddles future teachers with debt, while doing little to serve children. The accreditation racket particularly harms poor black children, for it keeps good teachers out of urban classrooms.
Next, go after bastions of elite privilege. Endowments of major colleges that are above a certain dollar-level should be taxed further. Harvard and Yale come to mind. The proceeds should fund post-high school apprenticeships, scholarships for America’s underprivileged youth to attend technical schools, and science and math scholarships at the nation’s historically black colleges.
Apprenticeships and technical schools could replace a costly college education for some. These scholarships wouldn’t be based on race, but solely on income and class. Perversely, black Americans can be left behind by affirmative action programs, which too often go to better-off “minorities” who don’t need the help.
While liberals obsess about climate change, actual communities where black Americans live have been neglected. Local environmentalism, run by local communities, should be the focus instead. This includes trash cleanup and policies to reduce homelessness and open violation of the law. And infrastructure in these areas is a must — not a shiny new government building, but infrastructure that brings more working-class jobs into an area.
Next, the president must stress shared values and Americanism. Blacks deserve their slice of the American pie. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a race-blind society, which stems from America’s founding documents, won’t be realized until general economic equality exists between whites and blacks.
The future of America depends on an American identity superseding racial identity. This doesn’t mean “diversity” or achieving “color-blindness.” It means white Americans have much more in common with black Americans than with Europeans — because we are both Americans, and this country means something.
But Democrats’ efforts to create equality among Americans, primarily motived by cynical and short-term politics, have utterly failed.
First, Democrats took away many black men’s jobs via the Davis-Bacon Act. In the Jim Crow South and even in the North, unions were whites-only. Black laborers would do often higher-quality construction work for less money. Davis-Bacon came along and said any project tied to federal money must pay the prevailing union wage. The law was explicitly passed on the grounds of race, due to white union complaints about black laborers taking work.
Then the Democrats packed black families into urban areas via segregated public housing. “The projects” is the popular descriptor for these liberal dreams that quickly turned into nightmares for the families that lived there. As any sociologist will tell you now, the last thing you do to poor people is pack them all tightly together in an area with little economic opportunity relative to their skills.
Next, Democrats passed a massive welfare expansion that explicitly paid dads to be out of the home. Dads, short on work, left during the week to give their kids vastly more resources. The system snowballed into the broken black families we have today.
While Republicans have been asleep at the wheel or even indifferent about these issues for decades, it was Democratic policies that wrecked black families. Up until 1950, black women had a higher marriage rate than white women. During this time, the number of black children in single-parent families was under 10 percent. Until the 1960s, despite massive racism, blacks were catching up to whites economically. Yet despite the civil rights push in the ’60s, black progress came to a standstill when Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson used federal largess to intrude upon black lives.
Black economic equality starts with undoing this toxic economic cocktail. First, Davis-Bacon should be amended to be void if unions benefiting from the law are not racially representative of the area of the country the union is in.
Further, a policy of reindustrialization should be pursued. This includes but is not limited to monetary reform, infrastructure focused on manufacturing and supply chains, and a small general tariff on foreign products to fund this infrastructure. These ideas could fit neatly into an overall agenda of Middle Class Capitalism.
Reindustrialization would help both the white and black working class, but historically black urban areas will not be revitalized until factory jobs that can provide young men a middle-class wage return to those areas. Infrastructure should focus on increasing manufacturing benefits in these urban areas.
Next, as much as possible, the federal government should pursue policies that force states and localities to change zoning laws to lessen the cost of building new housing. Affordable housing programs should focus on home ownership in distant suburbs and small towns. Such policies would bring new families to suburbs and rural areas, which tend to have less-crowded schools and better public resources.
Meanwhile, infrastructure projects should incent the creation of new industrial centers in these areas. Again, if federal money is tied to the infrastructure project, all-white unions shouldn’t be allowed to push out non-union competitors. Finally, if tax policy is to be discussed, it should be a payroll tax cut.
American Families First
Ultimately, the key to ending much black pain and advancing black economies is black fathers in the home. Statistically, one of the greatest single indicators of a child’s success is the number of fathers in the community. In other words, a father in the home increases a child’s social mobility more than the government ever could.
Yet more than half of black children today grow up without a father in the home. One culprit may be stiff penalties to marriage in the safety net, which black Americans disproportionately bear. That’s why Trump should run on legislation that would use federal dollars to incentivize states to remove these marriage penalties.
Many thinkers blame only culture, which implicitly seems to blame black people. Yet marriage penalties can reach up to a third of a family’s income — easily over $15,000 per year. While a group effect certainly exists when it comes to decisions such as cohabitation and divorce, it’s hard to argue these stark financial incentives don’t matter. That’s partly why the military, which incentivizes marriage and minimizes racial discrimination, sees a much smaller gap between black and white marriage rates compared to the country overall.
Another culprit of black family decline, and of general working-class family breakdown and fatherlessness, is stagnant male wages and a shortage of marriageable men. Aside from the efforts above, Trump should launch a program to expand technical education and apprenticeships, focused on the skilled trades and high-tech manufacturing, at the expense of federal subsidies to “liberal arts” colleges. Meanwhile, these colleges and universities should be required to have skin in the game. If they aren’t producing good results, they should be on the line for student debt.
Finally, American families first, both black and white, requires a crackdown on unfettered low-skill immigration — illegal or legal — and an end to American adventurism and nation-building overseas. It makes no sense for working-class boys and girls to toil away in Afghanistan for two decades. They are forced to defend Afghan forces who do disgusting things, and are fighting a war Washington knows we can’t win and has been lying about for years.
On the subject of immigration, the greatest victims of unfettered low-wage immigration into the United States are working-class Americans — whites, Hispanics, and blacks — who experience a constant headwind to wage gains. Democrats and many Republicans claim immigration doesn’t affect wages, but people would change their tune if we started importing lawyers, college professors, or Vox.com writers. Studies show an influx of labor to an area depresses lower-income wages, at least over the short term. What do you think a steady flow of unskilled labor over the long term does to low-income wages?
The Contract with Black America
The coalition of the Democratic Party is brittle. While Republicans may have a brittle donor coalition, Democrats have a brittle voting-base coalition. Which is worse?
More than 90 percent of black Americans shouldn’t be consistently voting Democrat, unless they are college professors, trial lawyers, or public-sector union workers. Since the vast majority of black Americans aren’t college professors, trial lawyers, or public-sector union workers, there’s a huge opportunity for nationalist, culturally conservative, and working-class-focused Republicans going forward.
Trump is uniquely gifted to bring black America back into the GOP. Come spring 2020, Trump should go to Detroit and launch the Contract. This could help break the chains of identity politics in America and fulfill the ultimate hope of America’s founding documents.