Jun 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Guilty verdict fuels Trump's push for Black voters

 Former President Trump speaks during a campaign rally in the South Bronx in New York City on May 23, 2024.

Former President Trump speaks during a campaign rally in the South Bronx in New York City on May 23, 2024

Donald Trump's team has stepped up its pitch to Black voters in the days since his conviction on 34 felony counts, claiming the real estate mogul and Black communities share a frustration over an unfair justice system.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of Trump's campaign using bad legal news to feed the ex-president's familiar theme that he's a victim of political persecution.

  • In this case, Trump — long known for racially incendiary comments about African Americans and Latinos — is trying to show a common bond with Black voters, particularly men.
  • President Biden and other Democrats have ridiculed the strategy, with Biden saying last week that Trump is "pandering and peddling lies and stereotypes for your vote, so he can win for himself, not for you."

Driving the news: Trump's strategy is unfolding as polls suggest he's cutting into Biden's hefty support among Black voters, 92% of whom backed Biden in 2020.

  • In a race that could be decided on the margins, even relatively small gains by either side among key voting blocs could be significant.

Some of Trump's most visible surrogates, including Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, are being deployed to court Black voters.

  • "The reason we're seeing so many African Americans come into the Trump campaign — two big things: jobs and justice," Scott (R-S.C.) told CNN on Friday.
  • "As an African American born and raised in the Deep South who had concerns about our justice system as it relates to race, I'm now seeing it play out from a partisan perspective," he added.
  • Donald Trump Jr. and and other allies shared clips of listeners of the popular radio show "The Breakfast Club" calling in to express support for Trump after his conviction.

The former president's campaign and the New York Young Republican Club have been discussing potential campaign events in the city's outer boroughs, club president Gavin Wax told Axios.

  • Scott Presler, a conservative activist working with the Republican National Committee to register voters, asked his followers and volunteers for his organization, Early Vote Action, to reach out to Black men.
  • "Donald Trump's conviction has highlighted the affliction of the American criminal justice system. And as it relates to Blacks, he should ... continue to say what he's been saying, and that is, 'I feel your pain,'" said Vernon Jones, a former DeKalb County executive and former GOP state legislator in Georgia.

Reality check: There's little evidence that Trump's I-am-a-victim-just-like-you argument is swaying many Black voters.

  • Civil rights advocates have questioned Trump's attempt to equate his conviction as a particularly privileged defendant with the experiences of those in historically underserved communities.
  • Trump's critics also cite allegations that he discriminated against Black apartment seekers in the 1970s.
  • And they note his calls for New York to reinstate the death penalty in the 1980s as the "Central Park Five" — Black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of beating and raping a white woman — were set to stand trial.
  • "Y'all out here acting like Trump is Mandela," former South Carolina state Rep. Bakari Sellers posted on X.
  • "Cut it out ... Trump broke the law. 12 peers held him accountable."
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