Black power has arrived. For the first time in modern memory, both of America’s major political parties are making an all-out push for the votes of African-Americans.
Good for them, and good for our country.
The hunt for black votes is a given with Democrats, but the first night of the Republican convention showed that two teams are chasing the same prize this year. Count me as surprised at the GOP’s bold effort to woo members of a group that has long represented the Dems’ most loyal constituency.
The effort showcased an impressive list of black speakers in prominent roles vouching for President Trump and slamming Joe Biden and the Dems. Kim Klacik, a dynamic young Republican woman running for the late Elijah Cummings’ seat in Baltimore, set the tone by declaring: “The Democrats have controlled my city, Charm City, for over 50 years and they have run this beautiful place into the ground.
“Abandoned buildings, liquor stores on every corner, drug addicts and guns on the street — that is now the norm in many neighborhoods.”
Herschel Walker, the football great, added his personal experience after what he called a 37-year-friendship with Trump. “I take it as a personal insult that people would think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist. Growing up in the deep south, I have seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump.”
Two later speakers were especially effective. Vernon Jones, a lifelong Democrat in the Georgia general assembly, showed a wicked sense of humor, saying that when Trump “sought to earn the black vote, the Democratic Party leaders went crazy! Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer literally started wearing Kente cloth scarves around the Capitol!”
And Jones, in a riff about Dems’ attacks on police, said this: “Isn’t it ironic that the Democrat politicians never leave home without security to protect them at all times? Why don’t they forgo their security and replace them with social workers, since that’s what they want for us?”
Sen. Tim Scott, from South Carolina, provided a powerful finish by telling his life story. His grandfather had been forced to leave school in the third grade to pick cotton, but lived long enough to see Scott become the first black American elected to both the House and the Senate. “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he said.
Most people don’t know that historical breakthrough, but you can bet they would if Scott were a Democrat.
Of course, the GOP is not aiming for anything close to a majority of the black vote. That’s impossible for now because, election after election, Dem presidential candidates, no matter their names, get 90 percent of it.
Trump only got 8 percent four years ago and it would be something of an earthquake if he could double that, which could be enough to turn the election. It’s also possible merely by competing for the vote he could cut into some of the anti-Trump fervor and make moderate whites more comfortable voting for Trump.
But Dems are especially vulnerable this year because they have put so much effort into turning out urban voters. The party, seized by identity politics, is supporting Black Lives Matter and Biden’s pick of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate was part of an effort to bolster the turnout among both women and nonwhites.
One result is that Biden has refused to condemn the violence sweeping through the nation’s urban areas, at least in part because that would be tantamount to calling for the police to crack down. And that, in turn, would infuriate the Black Lives Matter movement, which is Marxist and anti-police.
That’s not a problem on the GOP side. Speaker after speaker, including black ones, applauded the police and condemned the violence.
Trump’s decision to try to compete is actually in keeping with his inaugural address. Then he talked of the ‘carnage” in much of America, including its cities, and focused on boosting the economy and creating jobs for the underclass.
He succeeded wildly. For much of last year, unemployment rates for black and Latino Americans hit record lows, and wage increases were often higher, percentage-wise, at the bottom and middle than at the top of the economic ladder.
In short, Trump has a record of creating jobs for nonwhite Americans that any Democrat would die for. And now he’s looking for their votes, a hunt complicated by the pandemic that has taken so many jobs.
The first night of the convention also focused on defending the president’s record combatting COVID. Clearly stung by polls that shifted in Biden’s favor as the deaths mounted, the president has adopted a more serious, sympathetic tone while still pushing for the economy to open as quickly as possible.
Part of that effort involved a video showing Democratic governors — Gavin Newsome of California, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Phil Murphy of New Jersey — complimenting the president for helping them during the worst days of the pandemic.
We won’t know for some time how well the message is received, and much will depend on the remainder of the convention, especially how effective the president is with this Thursday acceptance speech.
Still, the first night was fast-paced, upbeat and rah-rah-rah. Sort of like the man in the Oval Office himself.