Sep 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Indicted Trump claims solidarity with Black voters

Illustration of silhouetted faces in profile in between a repeating pattern of doric columns mimicking bars.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Former President Trump is pushing his mug shot, arrests and criminal charges to try to claim new solidarity with Black voters — a group that has largely shunned him in elections.

Why it matters: Trump has latched on to a narrative promoted last month by Fox News commentators and others in conservative media — that his arrests could boost his standing among African Americans who believe the criminal justice system is unfair.

The big picture: There's little evidence he's getting an indictment bump among Black voters, despite his claim that support rose after the mug shot from his arrest in Atlanta was released.

  • But his team believes he can make inroads with Black voters by pushing an I-am-a-victim-just-like-you storyline.

Zoom in: Trump claimed in a recent interview with conservative host Hugh Hewitt that his poll numbers among Black voters "have gone up four and five times" since his mug shot was released.

  • That's not true, as CNN reported.
  • And it's unclear whether Trump's favorability with Black voters has increased beyond the 8% or so share he received in 2020. (Recent polls have suggested Trump's support among Blacks is improving, but pre-election polls in 2020 overstated his support.)

Driving the news: In recent weeks Trump has promoted videos of Black people defending him, and senior Trump advisers have kept in touch with Black celebrities who have supported him publicly.

  • Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung posted on X a TikTok video of a 34-year-old Black man saying, "We rocking with Trump, man. Even the youth, they know what time it is."
  • "I just think — especially, again with the (Black) men — they're going to see through" the charges against Trump, "because they've been dealing with this for a long time," Donald Trump Jr. told Newsmax.

Black artists including Lil Pump, Kodak Black and Chief Keef have posted mugshots of themselves next to Trump's, shared supportive messages, or otherwise indicated they're rooting for him.

  • Keef mused that Trump would "run the prison" if he's convicted.
  • Another artist, Bandman Kevo, got Trump's image tattooed on his leg.
  • Several artists have pointed to actions Trump took while in office, including passing the First Step Act and PPP loans, as reasons for their support.

Yes, but: Critics of the former president see irony in his push for African Americans' support.

  • Trump is charged in Fulton County, Georgia, with trying to overturn the 2020 election results. The charges stem from an alleged conspiracy in which Trump's team sought to invalidate votes in heavily Black urban areas across the country after the election.
  • Democratic pollsters doubt that Trump's support among a few Black artists will help him significantly. A bigger issue in a general election matchup against President Biden could be Biden's slipping numbers with non-white voters who don't have college degrees.
  • "The best way to describe (Trump's) political efforts here is pissing in windmills," former South Carolina state Rep. Bakari Sellers told Axios.
  • "I love Kodak. I love his music, but that doesn't mean that his thoughts on Donald Trump are going to be pervasive."

Flashback: In the 2020 election, Trump also got support from several Black artists, including Ice Cube, Lil Wayne and Ye (formerly known as Kanye West).

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