Issac Bailey is an interim member of The Charlotte Observer editorial board and the 2016 James K. Batten Professor of Public Policy at Davidson College. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman fellow and is the author of the book “My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Midst of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South” (Other Press). Follow him on Twitter: @ijbailey. The views expressed are his own.
(CNN)Black voters are not going to follow Kim Kardashian and Kanye West into the arms of President Donald Trump.
And they won’t be misled by Trump’s false claims that he’s the reason the black unemployment rate has dipped to its lowest level on record, 5.9%, given that it improved significantly more under President Barack Obama.
But, more importantly, black voters won’t embrace Trump because he (and his supporters) have yet to acknowledge the affront of his well-documented, bigoted remarks, his unfair criticism of Obama and his refusal to acknowledge Obama’s accomplishments while in office.
Besides that, white supremacists — and those who may be sympathetic toward them — keep reminding us that they are giddy about Trump and feel more comfortable in the Republican Party because Trump shares “some of the same ideals.”
Even those with less extreme, though still deeply problematic views, have found a home with the GOP. “In my view, the best way to bring diversity to the Republican Party is for Republicans to openly say that the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American,” said Seth Grossman, the GOP nominee for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Grossman has been endorsed by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
His comments were far from the dog whistle the black community has grown accustomed to. Instead they were a blunt and bizarre declaration that those who believe diversity is important, particularly because black people, women and others have too frequently been denied opportunity, are the real racists.
His disgusting remarks were uncovered by a progressive super PAC that monitors GOP candidates. But there’s nothing surprising about Grossman’s comments. They fit well within today’s Republican Party, which supported a candidate for President who rose to national prominence despite (or because of) his embrace of bigoted beliefs.
And he has not let go of these beliefs since assuming office. He has allegedly called African countries “shitholes,” (though he denies it), has said he wants more immigrants from overwhelmingly white Norway and has labeled peacefully protesting NFL players as “sons of bitches” who don’t belong in the country.
But it’s not just what Trump has done while he has been in office — it’s also what he hasn’t done: give Obama credit where credit is due. When Obama became president at the height of the recession, black unemployment was at nearly 17%. By the time he left, it had dropped to 7.8%. Similarly, black poverty had reached its lowest level at 19%. And the stock market had risen 234%.
Of course, Trump called those statistics phony; he said black people had nothing to lose by voting for him because they lived in a veritable “hellscape.” Notably, only 8% of black voters bought his logic then, helping to usher him into office.
Trump, though he has been in office for a much shorter time than Obama, has yet to achieve his predecessor’s economic accomplishments. Take GDP growth: In 2014, under Obama, the United States grew 4.6% and 5.2% in the second and third quarters, respectively. The highest quarterly increase under Trump so far has been a 3.2% rise during the third quarter of last year.
The American public also received massive tax cuts under Obama, tax cuts that were more tailored for the middle class than those Trump signed into law last year. While the bottom three-fifths of earners benefited most from Obama tax cuts, the biggest beneficiaries of the Trump tax cuts are projected to be families making between $308,00 and $703,000.
Meanwhile, economic and racial inequality remain entrenched and are expected to worsen under Trump. “The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned, rather than a right of citizenship,” Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur, has said.
Trump and his most ardent supporters, who spent years telling black voters the black guy in the White House had accomplished nothing of significance, now want to take credit for Trump’s underwhelming accomplishments. But black voters haven’t forgotten the Obama years. And they won’t.