President Donald Trump unveiled a plan to win over the African American vote on September 25, less than two months before Election Day, primarily expanding upon the existing economic-related initiatives the President established in his first term. The proposals include prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan and Antifa as terrorist organizations, making Juneteenth a federal holiday, and bolstering Black economic prosperity. During an Atlanta event announcing what was deemed the Black Economic Empowerment “Platinum Plan,” Trump sought to draw contrasts between his plan for the African American community and Joe Biden’s proposals, arguing that the former vice president “inflicted” damage on the Black community over the last 47 years he’s spent working in Washington. Trump garnered just 8% of the African American electorate in 2016, and an average of recent 2020 polls shows Biden leading Trump with African American voters by an 83% to 8%, or 75-point, margin. “They only care about power for themselves, whatever that means. My opponent is offering Black Americans nothing but the same old, tired, empty slogans,” President Donald Trump argued.
Like many other Republican politicians since the 1960s, President Donald Trump has presented different racial messages when playing to diverse audiences. He defended Confederate symbols. He has called the Black Lives Matter movement a “symbol of hate,” days after retweeting and then deleting a video that included a Florida supporter shouting “White power.” The White House has maintained that Trump did not hear the supporter say the phrase. But on September 25, the President spoke about the pillars of the plan in broad terms, saying, that among other proposals, he would be building up “peaceful” urban neighborhoods with the “highest standards” of policing, bringing fairness to the justice system, expanding school choice, increasing African American home ownership and creating a “national clemency project to right wrongful prosecutions and to pardon individuals who have reformed their (lives).”
The proposal borrows efforts from proposals by other Republicans, such as South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who played a vital role in the establishment of opportunity zones and remains the sole African American Republican in the Senate. For example, President Donald Trump’s plan proposes making lynching a national hate crime. In 2019, Scott co-sponsored legislation to make lynching a hate crime alongside none other than California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, who is now the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. The legislation passed in the Senate but was never passed by the House. As demonstrations rocked the country this summer protesting against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd, President Trump sought to console African Americans who have died as a result of police violence. However, he has consistently delivered a law and order message, calling demonstrators “thugs” and “anarchists” and rebuking what he said was protesters’ “mob rule.” A Monmouth University poll released earlier this month found that 82% of Black respondents said Trump’s handling of the protests made the current situation worse.
President Donald Trump’s proposed “Platinum Plan” also proposes recognizing Juneteenth, the widely observed holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday. The Trump campaign scheduled a rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of a 1921 massacre of hundreds of African Americans during racial unrest in the historic section of the city known as “Black Wall Street.” President Trump said before the rally that it was not scheduled on Juneteenth “on purpose,” but after the event, which his campaign rescheduled in order to avoid further criticism, he sought credit for popularizing the holiday. Trump told The Wall Street Journal that “nobody had ever heard of” the holiday before he brought it up. “I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump said. In June, several senators, including Tim Scott and other Republicans, co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
Overall, President Donald Trump’s recently-proposed “platinum plan” represents significant outreach on the part of a Republican Presidential candidate to make inroads with African American voters. Despite his recent outreach to African American voters, President Trump faces an uphill battle at gaining African American support. For example, a January 2020 Washington Post poll found that than 8 in 10 African Americans believe Trump is racist and has contributed to making racism a bigger problem in the US. A majority of the poll’s respondents, 58%, said Trump’s actions as president are “very” bad for African Americans in the nation. Trump has roundly denied accusations of racism. As President, he has faced blistering criticism over his public and private statements, like in 2017, when he blamed “both sides” after violence sparked by a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump also privately referred to some African nations as “s***hole countries” and criticized the protests led overwhelmingly by black NFL players. Last year, the US House of Representatives voted to censure the President’s comments when he told four congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from.