Don­ald Trump look­ing down on black Amer­ica

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/opinion - Opin­ion Ron Christie

REPUB­LI­CAN pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump of­fi­cially lost me early on the morn­ing of Au­gust 25. I was al­ready irked by my party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. A week be­fore he had asked African-Amer­i­can vot­ers to con­sider his can­di­dacy by say­ing, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

But the tweet he sent on the 25th put me over the line. Mr. Trump wrote: “So many in the AfricanAmer­i­can com­mu­nity are do­ing so badly, poverty and crime way up, em­ploy­ment and jobs way down: I will fix it, prom­ise.”

On Satur­day, he tried to do bet­ter. He went to, a pre­dom­i­nantly black church.

It was a clichéd place for a meet­ing. He swayed to the mu­sic, praised black Chris­tians and rolled out De­troit na­tive Dr Ben Car­son for good mea­sure.

I do give Mr Trump credit for mak­ing the trip in the first place — and ac­knowl­edg­ing that those in the church would be his con­stituents whether they voted for him or not.

The prob­lem with Mr Trump’s ef­forts thus far is that he does not seem to un­der­stand that there is no such mono­lithic en­tity known as “the AfricanAmer­i­can com­mu­nity.”

Black Amer­ica in­cludes doc­tors, painters, welders, farm­ers and even for­mer White House staffers turned ad­junct pro­fes­sors like me.

Mr Trump has demon­strated not only a com­plete lack of em­pa­thy, but also the view that most blacks are do­ing badly and live in crime-in­fested neigh­bour­hoods.

What re­ally angers me, how­ever, is Mr Trump has failed to ex­pand the foun­da­tion of AfricanAmer­i­can out­reach built by Repub­li­cans like Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush, Govenor John Ka­sich of Ohio, whom I worked for, and the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, in favour of sound­ing cute on so­cial media about how he can snap his fin­gers and solve prob­lems that have per­sisted since the Great So­ci­ety pro­grammes — pro­grammes that have con­sis­tently failed.

Granted, as Repub­li­cans we have a long road ahead of us in terms of win­ning black votes.

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush re­ceived nine per­cent of the black vote in 2000 and 11 per­cent in 2004.

But Mr Trump is polling some­where be­tween zero and one per­cent. How has he taken the G.O.P. back­ward in such a short pe­riod of time?

For one, Mr. Trump has made the race all about him­self and hasn’t tried to learn from the ef­forts of others who sought to di­ver­sify our party not by pan­der­ing on “black is­sues” but by en­gag­ing the black com­mu­nity and show­ing how their poli­cies can ac­tu­ally serve them well. In the 1990s, Gover­nor Ka­sich, then serv­ing in Congress, col­lab­o­rated with col­leagues Rick San­to­rum, Jack Kemp and others to de­sign a set of leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives called the Project for Amer­i­can Re­newal.

They worked with may­ors and lo­cal lead­ers, and the project sought to im­prove neigh­bour­hood blight, en­hance ed­u­ca­tion and re­vi­talise com­mu­ni­ties from a lo­cal van­tage point rather than a Wash­ing­ton­knows-best per­spec­tive.

I worked for Pres­i­dent Bush and Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, from 2001 to 2004, and saw how they tried to make in­roads in mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties.

Dur­ing my first days in the White House, Mr Cheney ap­proached me about a project the pres­i­dent had been asked to sup­port — con­struc­tion of the first African-Amer­i­can his­tory mu­seum on the Na­tional Mall.

Work­ing with a civil rights icon, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Lewis, Demo­crat of Geor­gia, and lead­ers in the House and Se­nate, Mr Bush and Mr Cheney ush­ered the bill through Congress and onto the pres­i­dent’s desk.

One of my hap­pi­est mem­o­ries was stand­ing in the cor­ner of the Oval Of­fice when Mr Bush signed the bill into law on De­cem­ber 16, 2003.

The African-Amer­i­can Mu­seum of His­tory and Cul­ture would open its doors later this month.

Pres­i­dent Bush spoke mov­ingly when he shared with me why he sought to elim­i­nate the soft big­otry of low ex­pec­ta­tions, the be­lief that mi­nori­ties couldn’t seek em­pow­er­ment through ed­u­ca­tion.

Pres­i­dent Bush em­ployed a strat­egy that awarded him dou­ble-digit sup­port of blacks and over 40 per­cent of the His­panic vote.

He didn’t talk to black peo­ple like a mono­lith known as “black peo­ple.”

He didn’t stereo­type all blacks or His­pan­ics as act­ing or think­ing in a cer­tain way.

Yes, he was crit­i­cised for his re­sponse to Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, among other things, but he re­mained com­mit­ted to in­creas­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for all Amer­i­cans.

That in­cluded work­ing with Congress to ex­tend the Vot­ing Rights Act in 2006.

Mr Trump needs to re­alise that all blacks don’t go to church on Sun­day or take their cues from the so-called civil rights lead­ers that pur­port to speak for one race. We think as in­di­vid­u­als.

I want to be able to sup­port Mr Trump in Novem­ber. But to earn my vote, he can’t talk about the African-Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence in this coun­try as one of un­re­lent­ing gloom.

I need to hear him speak from the heart and tell me why his ex­pe­ri­ence, and poli­cies, will best lead this coun­try for­ward. There is in fact a lot to lose. — New York Times

Ron Christie served as a spe­cial as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush and is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Christie Strate­gies

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