Friday, January 06, 2017

Trump and Black Americans

The Wall Street Journal
Wonder Land

FDR offered the hope of prosperity. Can the new president do the same?

By Daniel Henninger
A list of keyword search terms for the omnipresent Donald Trump likely would include: tweet, Putin, transition, China, Carrier, GM, ISIS, taxes, Mexico, immigrants, nativist and white.

One search term would not show up on any list: black Americans.
Black Americans appear—as a political issue—on every presidential candidate’s must-do list. But after the voting stops, they generally drop down or off the list. Four years later, the same people are living in the same neighborhoods with the same disordered schools and the same dim prospects for economic advancement.

Conventional wisdom now holds that Donald Trump is president because he identified the angry white counterparts of black voters who have watched the world pass them by election after election.

Maybe black voters are angry, too. And maybe with Donald Trump, of all people, they’ll get some political respect that matters.

In September, Mr. Trump visited a private charter school, the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, in one of that city’s toughest neighborhoods.

Why take the time? Commentary at the time noted that Mr. Trump’s support in polls among Ohio’s blacks was about zero. The campaign’s real targets were white, blue-collar voters in places like Parma on Cleveland’s west side.

Still, Mr. Trump gave a quiet speech to a small audience at that Cleveland charter about the “ladder to success.”

“I define that,” he said, “as a great education and a great job.” He added: “You cannot have prosperity without safety. This is the new civil rights agenda of our time.”

Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger on why the president-elect’s policy agenda may help struggling minorities. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Again, why try? So strong is black support for the Democratic Party—well over 80% in every presidential election since 1964—that it has become a subject of study among political scientists who describe the black vote as “captured.”

One plausible explanation for this loyalty is that black Americans vote their interests. Franklin Roosevelt offered economic hope in the 1930s, and Lyndon Johnson passed the civil rights acts in the ’60s. Republicans got dropped from blacks’ voting calculations, which haven’t changed in 50 years.

It’s hard to know where Mr. Trump gets his political ideas, but worth noting is that he recruited former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary.

Recall that in July 2015, when running for the GOP nomination, Mr. Perry gave an extraordinary speech imploring his party to campaign for the black vote and asking black voters to recognize how little they were getting now for their support of Democrats. “Why is it today,” he asked, “so many black families feel left behind?” A year later, Donald Trump was asking the same question.

Barack Obama will deliver his farewell speech in homicidal Chicago next week. The irony is hardly worth noting, and Mr. Obama will make the best case for himself. Several things, though, deserve mention before his departure.

For starters, urban blacks aren’t particularly happy about how things worked out with the Obama presidency. Reporting done on this has turned up disappointment with their progress.

In the eight years of the Obama presidency, all the familiar inner-city problems—unemployment, violence, underachievement—somehow got transferred to the issue of the police, as if the cops invented poverty and immobility in Chicago, Baltimore or Ferguson, Mo.

Less noticed, but as telling, is how much time the Obama departments of justice and labor spent filing lawsuits based on disparate-impact theory, which holds that discrimination is discoverable using arcane statistical analyses of housing patterns or lending practices.

If the party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson is raising up black America with statistics a half-century after the civil rights acts, it has run out of ideas on the way forward.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The civil rights acts were championed by Republicans in the 1860s and 1960s over the objection of Democrats. Details are at: ]

Black turnout for Hillary Clinton was down, but not just because she wasn’t Mr. Obama. It was, for example, because her proposals for their schools—more federal spending on building upgrades and teacher training—were familiar and for many of them, failed.

Could Donald Trump be the next FDR for black Americans? Choke down that gulp. Early Roosevelt was one thing—a president offering work. So is this one.

Restoring economic growth is the baseline. But for poor blacks it isn’t enough. Growth has passed over them before. Also needed is deliverance on two Trump promises that precede real jobs: “great education” and “safety.”

The potential in education with nominee Betsy DeVos is directly proportional to her opposition on charters and choice from the tongs defending the schools status quo.

Less noticed is Ben Carson. This isn’t just another housing secretary. The Carson mission, made clear in his primary campaign, is to challenge the idea that “structural racism” explains the dead end on urban progress.

It’s a heavy lift. Which is why presidencies drop it. These are the early days of a new presidency when hope is no sin. The expectation here is that Donald Trump meant what he said at that charter school in Cleveland.