Could Black voters pull their support for local Democratic candidates under President Donald Trump?
Not a week into his presidency, Donald Trump echoed the words of a popular conservative television news host to the nation via Twitter — he would send “the Feds” to Chicago to address crime if the city did not independently resolve gun violence issues.
Now nearly 100 days into his presidency, Trump continues to name Chicago in broad disparaging statements about education and crime in the country.
There were roughly 4,368 shooting victims in Chicago in 2016, according to data collected by the Chicago Tribune. As of April 17, there were roughly 917 shooting victims in the city since the beginning of the year, with shootings in January and February surpassing last year’s numbers.
But some of Trump’s statements about crime rates and unemployment in Black communities have declined, reports show.
Overall, the national rates of homicides, violent crime and unemployment in Black communities have declined. However, FBI crime statistics show an increase in the murder rate in Chicago in 2015 and 2016.
But across the country life expectancy is increasing in Black communities, according to Centers for Disease Control reports, and the number of African Americans attaining high school degrees or higher has increased in the last four decades, based on census data.
However, Chicago’s African Americans are concerned about the state of crime, employment, and public school education locally. In some cases, these anxieties prompted a small percentage of black voters to believe the solution to these issues no longer rests in the hands of Democratic leadership, but with Re- publicans. Others decided not to vote at all—feeling a sense of apathy.
With the presidential election behind us, could these issues prompt African Americans to reconsider their sometimes blind loyalty to the Democratic Party? Some Republicans think so and urge voters to pay attention to local elections.
On the campaign trail in 2016, then-candidate Trump asked black voters to ask themselves what they had to lose in supporting him. Congressional Black Caucus members, including Illinois Representatives Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and Robin Kelly, issued a 125-page document in March describing what Black communities stood to lose under a Trump presidency, including blows to voter protections and criminal justice reform.
But the question seemed logical to Chicago lawyer Brunell Donald-Kyei, who said she felt disappointed by decades of Democratic leadership nationally and locally. In fact, Trump’s question aided in convincing her to endorse him even at the risk of being shunned by other black people and called derogatory names such as Aunt Jemima.
It’s important to note that Donald-Kyei isn’t a lifelong Republican.
Before she was stumping for Trump on national news programs, Donald-Kyei was the Democratic running mate to Tio Hardiman in the 2014 primary race for the governor’s office.
She said her connection to the Democratic Party stretches over two decades, including voting for former president Barack Obama and for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary.
When Sanders lost the primary con- test to former State Department head Secretary Hillary Clinton, Donald-Kyei considered another choice. She said it was both her deep love for the social and economic progress of Black people in the city and dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party that influenced her decision.
“I voted for Donald Trump because there were promises made in our communities, especially the African American community, that jobs would be sent to the young people, vocational programs, apprenticeships—that the government would invest in communities for entrepreneurship,” Donald-Kyei said.
In her view, Trump is making good on those promises, highlighted by conversations he’s had with business leaders and heads of Historically Black Colleges.
But where some people have questioned if the administration’s maneuvers to make good on certain campaign promises comes at the cost of public trust or even the democratic process itself, Donald-Kyei says no way. She says Trump is putting the country’s agenda first.
“I am an American first, and I saw a problem with the way the nation was going,” she said, adding that she also sees herself as a Christian and felt Judeo-Christian beliefs were being sidelined by members of the Democratic Party.
Trump’s lack of political experience and the inflammatory statements he made about women and religious and minority groups while campaigning weren’t necessarily a deterrent for Donald-Kyei, who agreed some comments weren’t optimal. Neither are ongoing FBI investigations against him alleging collusion be- tween the U.S. government and Russia.
Donald-Kyei publicly condemned Clinton in 2016 for federal investigations against her, saying those investigations disqualified her from potentially holding presidential office. However, she said she sees investigations into Trump’s White House by independent federal agencies as a partisan attack spearheaded by Democrats sulking about an election they lost.
While voters such as Donald-Kyei lauded then-candidate Trump’s non-partisanship, a former Chicago college student was also searching for another option. But hers didn’t involve Trump for that very reason.
University of Chicago graduate Alexis Morris, 26, said she didn’t vote for Trump because she didn’t think his agenda was truly Republican. In Morris’ view, Trump is more of a populist, only telling working class people what they want to hear.
The self-described Republican–she decided she was a Republican at age 12–voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the general election in Michigan.
Black GOP, continued from, Page 02 As a college-educated, black woman–checking off three of Clinton’s largest voter demographics–the financial analyst who grew up in Ottawa, Ill., and near D.C. and whose parents grew up on the South and West sides of Chicago, said she couldn’t vote for Clinton either. To her, Clinton represented the kind of candidate who supported Black communities with words, not actions.
Morris and some other Black Republican voters in Chicago agree: Black voters casting ballots in the 80 and 90 percentile to support Democratic candidates in general elections hurt the political efficacy of the Black community.
“I think if the Black community would challenge the political status quo and maybe, sometimes, if they have to, vote for a third party, we might actually get some of our grievances addressed,” she said.
Active in a campus Republicans group at her university and the Illinois College Republican Federation, where she briefly served as executive director of the group, Morris said she too often felt as if she needed to defend her Blackness.
“Being a Republican in college, you’re already on the defensive but being a Black Republican, I was even more on the defensive because the times I’ve been called an Uncle Tom or told I wasn’t Black because I was a Republican; because I was a conservative, which hurts,” she said. “My parents were marching to end Jim Crow right along with other people’s parents and grandparents and great grandparents.”
Morris said she does not believe some-one should be made to choose between being black or Republican. Black Republican 6th Ward Committeeman Darnell Macklin turns to history to explain why the Democratic Party has become a bastion of hope for the majority of Black voters in the U.S. over the last five decades.
He and other political history observers point to the Civil Rights Movement and the equal rights policies championed by then-presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyn-don B. Johnson to explain the shift of Black Americans from the Republican party– the party of the Great Emancipator President Abraham Lincoln– to the Democratic party in the 1960s.
“In America, political strength comes from your ability to leverage the political system so politicians don’t take you for granted,” Macklin said. “For us, as black Americans, to continue voting… as a one party state in a two party system negates the value of the whole system of the Voting Rights Act,” he said.
In 1972, Macklin was a delegate for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. But by 1980, he shifted to the Republican Party. He won the Republican committeeman seat in his majority Black ward that covers parts of the Chatham and Englewood neighborhoods in 2012. Macklin is in his second term. He touts his success with recruiting residents to the party through being visible.
Last year, Macklin was a delegate for men nationwide voted for the president. Ben Carson and voted for Trump in the general election. Thirteen percent of Black men nationwide voted for the president.
Amid questions from some of the president’s critics about his ability to lead, Macklin said ultimately Trump, or anyone who holds the office, doesn’t have the power to directly impact people’s lives in so much as he wields his power to control money.
“I mean what can Trump… what can the president actually do. He can send money our way. He’s not coming out here himself, though,” Macklin said.
He followed the statement by conceding the president does have some power, but primarily needs the support from policy makers and governmental agencies to push his agenda forward. And that’s where Black voters should be putting their focus, especially during local elections.
“We (African-Americans) think that all politics is local,” he said. “You want your car towed, you don’t call your president, you call your alderman. So that’s our mission. If we take care of local, we’ll take care of the presidency.”
Macklin said he hoped the presidential election was an indicator of a possible increase of support for Republican candidates in Black communities. Is it possible people looking for direct political action in a country experiencing a widening socioeconomic schism, rather than a racial one, could change the demographics of the nation’s most prominent two political parties?
Chicago media and political strategist and former Illinois spokeswoman to the Clinton campaign Delmarie Cobb doesn’t think so. She disagrees that black voters will support Republicans or third-party candidates in higher numbers in the future because she firmly believes GOP policies do not have the interests of Black people in mind.
She said she thinks that racism and sexism were the driving forces behind Trump’s accumulation of support, which doesn’t wholly explain even the little backing he received from Black voters. What might explain the support is social conservatism in Black communities.
Cobb said that there could be a disconnect happening between Black people and the Democratic Party on social issues.
For example, in an attempt to champion social justice issues, such as ones affecting the LGBTQ community, Cobb said both White Americans in “middle America” and Black Americans all along the political ideological spectrum are be-ing pushed to political extremes causing polarization.
“We’ve got to understand that as fast as things are moving, there is still people who aren’t moving quite as fast, and we’ve got to address their sensibilities as well,” Cobb said. But she echoed a similar plea as GOP supporters urging Black voters to pay attention to contests closer to home.
“White people vote every two years and Black people vote every four years so we need to vote every two years to make sure we have representation in our state legislatures, in our governor mansions, and in our Congress,” Cobb said.