By Cash Michaels –
Jonathan Capehart is a respected African American opinion writer at The Washington Post who is known for keeping a sharp eye on President Donald Trump and how his policies are affecting the black community.
Capehart attracted a lot of attention recently with an article titled, “Three things Trump is doing that should scare the hell out of Democrats.”
Three things … the last of which is extremely important to African American Democrats, especially here in North Carolina.
The first, according to Capehart, is that despite impeachment, the Republican National Committee (which will be bringing its national convention to Charlotte, NC August 24 through the 27) and the Trump reelection campaign, have raised a staggering $493 million just in 2019 alone.
Experts agree that that is a formidable haul that would make any incumbent president hard to beat.
The second reason Capehart says Democrats should be nervous about the 2020 elections is that, beyond white evangelicals, whose support the Republican president cultivates religiously, Trump is also cultivating white Hispanics, who reportedly see no connection between themselves and the struggling Latinos whom Trump is determined to keep out of the United States by building his infamous wall.
But the third and (for the purposes of this story) most important reason that Democrats should be concerned, according to Capehart, is Trump’s overtures for black support in his 2020 campaign.
“Just as with the Latino vote, Trump’s outreach to African Americans isn’t about winning a majority of their votes,” Capehart writes. “It’s about shaving off enough votes from the expected Democratic hold on the black vote to eke out a win. If the drop-off in black votes that happened between 2012 (President Barack Obama’s reelection) and 2016 happens again in 2020, Trump will win.”
Even with repeated accusations of racism against Trump because of his statements and policies against African Americans, pulling at least 8% nationally of the black vote would hurt any Democratic opponent in key Electoral College states.
It is no secret that, of all the Democratic Party’s traditional constituencies, the African American vote is the most loyal. But with young African Americans leaning away from the party in favor of more progressive political figures who are Democrats in name only, not to mention blacks who feel that the party has always taken their votes for granted, African American Democratic loyalty could become a real factor.
“African American voters have signaled they will not lie low, be quiet and take one for the team because of the greater goal of taking Trump out of office,” wrote columnist Mary C. Curtis for Roll Call magazine last June.
But there is another reason Capehart is keeping a keen eye on the “Blacks for Trump” factor: black men.
Even though black women are the strongest Democratic Party voters, outpacing white men and women in percentage terms, black men are the prime Trump target, Capehart says.
“According to the 2016 exit polls, [Hillary] Clinton won black women by 90 percentage points, but her advantage over Trump with black men was just 69 percentage points,” Capehart reports. “Thirteen percent of African American men voted for Trump and five percent voted for third-party candidates. That’s 18% of the black male vote that went to someone other than the Democrat. This … explains why the Democratic candidates have been turning their attention to African American men on the campaign trail.”
Another factor working for Trump is voter ID. While its status is still unknown here in North Carolina for the 2020 general election in November, there are 34 other states where voter photo identification is alive and well, and a useful tool to suppress the black vote.
And finally here in NC, white turnout in 2020 could exceed the 71% turnout of registered white voters—which beat out the 64% registered-black-voter turnout in 2016. That’s a nine-point drop-off from the 73% turnout among blacks in 2008, the first time Barack Obama ran for president, according to Political Science Prof. Michael Bitzer of Catawba College in Salisbury, NC.
Of course, a lot depends on which presidential candidate Democrats ultimately decide on this summer.
But Trump has made it clear, especially after he launched his “Blacks for Trump” group in November, in addition to advertising in black media, that he will compete for the African American vote.
The question is, what will the Democratic Party do, and will it be enough?