Opinion » Viewpoint

Trump’s Race Problem: Black Republicans with Nowhere to Go



Trump supporters are rare among black people. President Trump won just eight percent of the black vote in 2016. His family business' sordid history of housing discrimination and his racially insensitive comments — "look at my African American over here" — leave black Trump supporters open to mockery and charges of self-hate.

Juan Williams
  • Juan Williams

A few black people thought they had a winning strategy for dealing with Trump. In exchange for access to his presidential power, they'd ignore warning signs and jump on his bandwagon. How did that work out for you, Omarosa? Trump reacted to her critical book by calling her a "dog" and a "crazed, crying low-life."

Kanye West similarly went to the White House in a red "Make America Great Again" hat before realizing he was being "used" by Trump backers to, as he later said, "spread messages I don't believe in."

All that was bad enough. Now it is getting worse for the black conservatives trying to find a place in the party of Trump. Exhibit A is how Trump went out of his way to trash the first black Republican congresswoman, Utah's Mia Love, after she lost a hard-fought reelection battle last month. "Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost," Trump sneered. "Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia." After Trump insulted her, Love told supporters: "This election ... shines a spotlight on the problems Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans."

This is not a race problem afflicting all Republicans or all Washington politicians. It is more accurately labeled a "Trump politician race problem." It is Trump who emboldened racists by saying that a march of white supremacists — and the people who protested against them — featured "fine people on both sides."  

Trying to make sense of Trump's bad record on dealing with people who are not white, Love argued: "It's transactional. It's not personal." Wrong, congresswoman. It is personal.

His family business was sued in the 1970s for refusing to rent apartments to black people. He never apologized for wrongly blaming five black and Latino teenagers for a brutal attack on a woman in New York's Central Park.

As Colin Powell, a black Republican, once wrote, Trump is a "national disgrace." As Condoleezza Rice, another black Republican, said, she is "uncomfortable [with] what I see and hear" from Trump.

Next year, the 116th Congress will be the most racially diverse in history due to a record number of black and Latino Democrats. There will be just two black Republicans, Representative Will Hurd of Texas and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Scott is performing a high wire act in dealing with Trump. He recently opposed Trump's nomination of Thomas Farr to a federal judgeship. Farr has a long history of defending racially discriminatory legislation. "We are not doing a very good job of avoiding the obvious potholes on race in America and we ought to be more sensitive when it comes to those issues," Scott said.

Scott similarly broke with his party earlier this year to oppose Ryan Bounds, another Trump judicial nominee with a troubling history on race.

Scott also flies away from Trump by championing economic development for black America. While Trump is cutting the Minority Business Development Agency and neighborhood block grants, Scott is crisscrossing the country on a national "Opportunity Tour," pushing conservative ideas for boosting economic development in minority neighborhoods. Scott insisted on a provision in last year's Trump tax cut law that creates "opportunity zones," making economically disadvantaged areas eligible for new federal tax breaks.

But here again, up pops the problem of being a black conservative when all Republican politics is defined by loyalty to Trump. While he got a provision into the Trump tax bill as the price for his vote, Scott still ended up supporting a Trump tax cut that in the short run benefits the richest one percent of Americans. That historic scam is exploding the deficit to pay for tax breaks for corporations and the rich. That means less federal dollars to help poor neighborhoods in need of revitalization.  

I am rooting for Scott and other principled black conservatives to reclaim the mantle of the party of Lincoln. There is a lot to lose if black conservative approaches to racial progress are sunk due to Trump loyalty tests.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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