Biden, Trump step up outreach to Black men

President Biden and former President Trump are ramping up their messaging toward Black male voters, underscoring the political power the demographic will hold in November.

Though Black voters overwhelmingly identify as Democrats, concerns that Black men are leaving the party have circulated since 2020, when Trump secured 12 percent of Black voter support.

Now, some observers say Black men could decide the presidential winner in November.

“I don’t know your pathway to victory without Black men,” said Mondale Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project.

But he added that strides have to be made with the “every day” Black male voter, not just the ones who are politically engaged.

“The majority of Black men in this country don’t see themselves in any of this,” said Robinson, who is also mayor of Enfield, N.C. “Sixty percent of Black men sit out election after election after election and [candidates] keep doing the same strategies. So I think to them, what’s your path to victory without these Black men?”

While Black voters’ interests cover a range of issues including education and health care, experts and advocates alike agree that if either party wants to win over Black men in time for the election, they need to focus on the economy.

“Black voters in this cycle are prioritizing many of the issues that we’ve been seeing over the past couple of cycles,” said Terrance Woodbury, founding partner of HIT Strategies polling group. “But the first is the economy, although I do think there’s some discrepancy here because when Black voters are saying economy, we hear them talking about costs, and that’s not necessarily jobs or wages.”

According to a recent survey from Pew Research Center, 77 percent of all Black voters said they would vote for Biden if the election were held today, while 20 percent of Black men said they would vote for Trump.

But while some polls suggest an ideological shift among Black men, this doesn’t mean they will show up at the ballot box on Nov. 7, according to Shelley Wynter, a member of the Georgia Black Republican Council.

“Black men still represent the lowest percentage of turnout,” Wynter noted.

Part of what’s keeping Black men from the ballot box, he added, is that no one is talking about the issues most important to them.

“We focus on the women because we know the elders and women are going to be at the polls,” said Wynter, a Trump supporter.

This year, Trump’s team has tried to center Black male voters in their messaging.

In February, Trump attempted to lean into popular culture by introducing a sneaker line at Sneaker Con in an effort aimed at Black men. He also tried to connect with them by referencing his legal troubles in an apparent attempt to highlight the racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Trump also indicated he would consider choosing a vice president of color as his running mate, though Robinson doubts this will have any impact on Black men’s voting habits.

“They’re thinking that you can use a face that looks like ours to motivate Black men to go to the polls, but that does not work,” Robinson said. “They’re thinking about Black men in the context of the ’60s, when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael were leaders of a certain section of Black men. These brothers who are not voting don’t believe anybody is their leader, and if you’re not a trusted messenger, you can send Jesus Christ and knock on their door but you’re probably not going to persuade them.”

But Trump’s team is pushing forward.

Recently, the former president traveled to New York’s South Bronx neighborhood, where he spoke to a crowd that had large portions of Black and Latino residents. And on Saturday he will be participating in a roundtable in Detroit, a majority-Black city.

“President Trump is showing up in Black communities and listening to voters where they live,” Janiyah Thomas, the Trump campaign’s Black media director, told The Hill in a statement.

“Polls, and every other measure of public support, reflect that historic numbers of voters in the Black community are abandoning Biden and moving towards President Trump.”

But Woodbury isn’t convinced this support for Trump will hold up through November.

“There is a gender gap amongst Black men and Black women — where Black men are about 4 points less likely to support Joe Biden than Black women – but that’s a very minor gap,” Woodbury told The Hill.

The bigger issue, Woodbury said, is the generation gap.

HIT Strategies has found a 30-point difference between young Black voters and older Black voters’ support for Joe Biden.

But Biden’s campaign is convinced the administration’s successes on student loan forgiveness, record-low Black unemployment rates and passage of reforms like banning no knock warrants, coupled with Trump’s history of racially-charged remarks, will keep Black voters from supporting the former president.

“Donald Trump has spent his life and political career disrespecting Black men every chance he gets: he entered public life by falsely accusing five black men of murder, denigrated George Floyd’s memory, and launched his political career trying to undermine the first Black president as the architect of birtherism,” Sarafina Chitika, a Biden campaign spokesperson, told The Hill in a statement.

“It’s why the first thing he did after taking over the RNC was shut down its minority outreach centers, and it’s why his campaign has no Black outreach program to speak of. President Biden is on the campaign trail showing up — himself — to earn, and not ask for, Black Americans’ support. That is what leadership looks like.”

Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist, said Black men are a vulnerable demographic right now. The party that speaks to those vulnerabilities the most, he added, will be the party to win Black men’s support — and with it, the White House.

“We have to acknowledge the pain and frustration … and that there’s work to do,” Seawright said.

“There’s some who do not understand that you cannot undo 400-plus years of neglect in one or two election cycles,” he added. “People see these vulnerabilities, and they want to play into those vulnerabilities, but what I’m confident in is that [Black men] will not be fooled — we see through the fog and understand who’s been for us and who’s been against us, who will fight for us and who will fight against us, but also who’s trying to do things to take away some of the basic fundamentals that we’ve been able to recently unlock and enjoy as Black men in this country.”

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