Support for President Donald Trump is growing among black Americans, but it’s unclear whether that will translate into enough votes for Republicans to retain control of Congress in the midterm elections in one month’s time.
This apparent reversal of fortunes stands in stark contrast to Republicans’ inability in recent decades to attract much support from black voters.
Part of the growth could be due to defections from the Democratic side. Former Democrat Brandon Straka’s #WalkAway movement has been encouraging Americans to share their personal stories of disillusionment with the Democratic Party and abandon, or “walk away,” from the party. The movement encourages voters to reject the influence of the far left on the Democratic Party, which in turn benefits the Republican Party and President Donald Trump. It is difficult to quantify the movement’s actual effects, but it is undeniably stirring things up in American culture.
Recording artist Kanye West’s activism on behalf of the president has also been making waves. When he embraced Trump after the election, he was rewarded with contempt almost universally from the entertainment industry and mainstream media.
The rapper wore a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap as he laid out an informal anti-Democratic Party manifesto on the 44th season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” on Sept. 29.
“You know, it’s like the plan they did, to take the fathers out the home and put them on welfare. Does anybody know about that? That’s a Democratic plan.
“There’s so many times I talk to, like, a white person about this and they say, ‘How could you like Trump? He’s racist.’ Well, uh, if I was concerned about racism I would’ve moved out of America a long time ago.”
West complained that he was “bullied backstage” before the show and was told not to wear his MAGA hat, which he referred to as his “Superman cape.” Wearing the hat means “you can’t tell me what to do,” he told the audience.
“Thank y’all, for giving me this platform. I know some of y’all don’t agree but y’all be going at that man neck a lot, and I don’t think it’s actually that helpful,” West said, referring to Trump. “Ninety percent of news are liberal.”
Trump himself expressed frustration on Twitter on Sept. 30, questioning why Democrats enjoy so much support from black voters.
“So if African-American unemployment is now at the lowest number in history, median income the highest, and you then add all of the other things I have done, how do Democrats, who have done NOTHING for African-Americans but TALK, win the Black Vote? And it will only get better!”
Republicans were buoyed by a recent Rasmussen Reports daily tracking poll that pegs the president’s approval rating among black Americans at an impressive 36 percent, which is almost double his support at this time last year.
Critics have called the Rasmussen poll a statistical outlier, but it isn’t the only evidence of a move toward the GOP.
A poll released a week earlier by the liberal National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) showed that 21 percent of registered black voters approve of Trump’s job performance.
Black conservative columnist Deroy Murdock was impressed by the polling figures.
“The fact that Trump enjoys the support of one-fifth of black voters in one poll and more than one-third in another is astonishing for someone routinely smeared as a white supremacist. These statistics should trigger klaxons at Democratic headquarters,” he wrote.
Harry Enten, a senior political analyst at CNN who used to do the same job at the politics and statistics website FiveThirtyEight, expressed skepticism about the Rasmussen poll but acknowledged that it “does seem that Trump has gained support among African-Americans since the 2016 election.”
In a column on Aug. 18, he pointed to a new Quinnipiac University poll that gave Trump an approval rating of 41 percent and a disapproval rating of 54 percent. Broken down by race, Trump came out with an approval rating of 9 percent and a disapproval rating of 85 percent among black voters.
“Trump’s average net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) with blacks right now is -72 points,” Enten wrote. “In other words, he’s shrunk his deficit by 9 points.”
A Pew Research Center study of verified voters in the 2016 election found Democrat Hillary Clinton enjoyed an even larger margin, in this case of 85 percentage points, with black voters, coming in with 91 percent approval versus 6 percent disapproval.
“If this study were correct, it would mean that Trump had doubled his black support since the election,” Enten wrote, adding that a June poll by Pew excluded from his average put Trump’s approval rating among blacks at 14 percent, also a gain since the election.
“It just seems that for whatever reason, the President has picked up a small, but statistically significant, amount of support among African-Americans.”
Whether this shift in sentiment will boost Republicans in the midterm elections is unclear, Enten wrote, but “the importance of even a slight shift in African-American voter sentiment shouldn’t be underestimated.”
“They make up greater than 10 percent of the U.S. electorate, and more in key swing states like Florida, Michigan and Virginia,” he wrote.
President George W. Bush was able to win reelection in 2004, Enten wrote, “in part because he made a small gain among black voters similar to that Trump seems to have made since his own election. If Trump is able to hold on to his additional African-American support, it could aid him in 2020.”
Conservative activists are optimistic about Republican prospects in November and beyond.
“There is no evidence there is going to be a blue wave in November, but we have to watch for a black wave,” said Star Parker, a former welfare mother who founded the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), a Washington-based public policy institute that promotes market-based solutions to fight poverty.
“Am I positive and optimistic that the movement will come out in November? Yes, I am,” she said.
The strengthening economy has made black Americans optimistic, Parker explained.
“Blacks are very content with making money, which they haven’t made for a while, and they’re starting to tick up because of President Trump. Black unemployment is the lowest ever, and high school dropouts are being hired,” Parker said.
David Almasi, director of Project 21, the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, agreed with Parker.
“Many black households are living paycheck to paycheck, and the growing economy helps them out and they are thanking Donald Trump for that,” Almasi said.
“Unlike most politicians, Donald Trump is someone they’ve known their whole lives and they respect. I’m 50 years old. I’m not cognizant of a world without him.”
Parker explained that blacks have been closely watching the narrative advanced by Democrats and they’ve noticed “how aggressive they’ve become against the interest of the country.”
They’ve been watching with alarm the brutal confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “When you declare someone guilty before trial it reminds them of Jim Crow,” she said.
“When the Democrats have drawn a line so deeply to message out that you must always believe the woman, or you are a sellout if you don’t, black people are being reminded of black history.
“There are many in their immediate families or their friends’ immediate families who remember. Everybody knows somebody who was falsely accused and is doing hard time.”
The fact that “black entertainment industry celebrities are cooperating with the Trump administration” is promising, she said.
“It’s a movement. There are many who are now looking at his proposals, including prison reform.
“There are many black people, unknown until now, who have now been brought to the table. We’re starting to see that there is an opportunity opening up.
“There are lots of people in distressed zip codes looking for new ideas.”
Candace Owens, communications director for the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA, predicted in July that there would be a “major shift” of black voters away from the Democratic Party before the 2020 election.
Owens opined that black men and women, as opposed to white middle-class women, will become the “most relevant vote” in the country by 2020 because more and more blacks are being exposed to “different ideas” on social media.
“There is going to be a major black exit from the Democrat Party, and they are going to actually have to compete for their votes in 2020,” she told MSNBC. “We’re seeing a major shift happen. And black supporters are leaving the left and going over to the right.”