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The GOP never tires of pitching the line in a presidential election year that the Democrats take black votes for granted and do absolutely nothing in return for those votes. The line goes that the Democrats’ alleged job killing, tout of entitlements, promotion of dependency and mind-numbing damp down of personal initiative have in effect created a modern-day plantation that traps blacks in perpetual poverty, horribly failed public schools, and run down crime ridden slums. They are for all practical purposes politically disenfranchised by being the handmaiden of the Democrats. Trump is the latest in the long train of GOP presidential contenders to peddle this line at campaign stops in Wisconsin and Michigan.
Now Trump didn’t go much further than this and make the pledge that some of the more delusional GOP contenders have and embark on a truncated, photo-op, charm tour to court Blacks. He knows that there’s no point in this given his hideous racial track record from barring Blacks from his apartment buildings, to his campaign for the death penalty for the falsely accused Central Park five, to his phony, fraudulent birther savaging of President Obama. He’s earned and richly deserves the near universal loathing he gets from Black voters.
Yet, Trump’s point still dangles heavily in the air that the Democrats routinely engage in a crude brand of plantation politics in that they win election after election with Black votes, but give nothing in return for that ever reliable support. More than a few Blacks have echoed this sentiment and ferociously ripped the Democrats for allegedly asking much of Black voters and giving little to them in return.
At first glance, there appears to be some ammunition for Trump to get some ink with the charge. The big cities with the highest levels of black poverty, underserved public schools, and high crime, as well as thorny issues with police violence such as Baltimore and Milwaukee, have long been run by Democrats, in most cases, Black Democrats. The GOP then endlessly tosses out gerrymandered figures on everything from jobs to jails to purport that Blacks have supposedly fared worse under President Obama than they did under presumably GOP presidents.
The absurdity of this is almost laughable. It’s even more laughable to make the case that Democrats and Democratic administrations are the cause of Blacks wallowing in poverty. And one doesn’t have to cite the Bush tax giveaways to the wealthy and big corporations, and slashes in spending on job and education programs. Or cite the GOP controlled Congress’s slash and burn of all Obama’s job and income initiatives and spending proposals to make the case that the blame finger for black poverty points to the GOP. According to Census data on unemployment and poverty, black families’ income grew far more and joblessness dropped far faster under Democratic presidents than under Republicans. The poverty rate for Blacks also showed a major plunge under Democratic administrations while it grew when a GOP president sat in the Oval Office.
Democrats have gotten the Black vote for nearly a half century for two brutal and compelling political reasons. The first is simple pragmatism. Most Blacks rely on the Democrats and civil rights leaders to fight the tough battles for health care, greater funding for education and jobs, voting rights protections, affirmative action and against racial discrimination. Even when Black Democratic politicians stumble and engage in borderline corrupt and self-serving feather their own nest antics, they are still regarded as better bets than Republican candidates to be more responsive to black needs. Black voters generally regard them as the politicians that accurately capture the mood of fear and hostility the majority of Blacks feel toward the Republicans.
The other is that many Democrats were the only ones that consistently fought back against Reagan, Bush Sr. and W. Bush’s draconian cuts in job, education and social services funding and programs, their retrograde nominees to the Supreme Court appointments that would roll back the civil rights clock, and their peck away at affirmative action, civil rights and civil liberties protections.
The GOP’s relentless and ruthless opposition to affirmative action, its duck, dodge, dither and flat-out obstruction of any and every initiative or legislation by President Obama on jobs, the increase in the minimum wage, strengthening social security protections, the dogged opposition to a slew of Obama judicial and administration appointees, and its hectoring and harassing of former Attorney General Eric Holder. Its manic and never-ending effort to torpedo the Affordable Care Act and the slew of nakedly race-tinged voting rights suppression laws it has dumped on the books in a handful of key electoral states has tagged it as an irredeemable enemy of Black voters.
Blacks, however, have been very much in Trump’s political play book. He’s used them as the perfect foil with his borderline racist digs, jibes, and slurs to drive disaffected, conservative, and other unreconstructed bigoted white voters to the polls. The hit on Democrats for allegedly running a plantation with Black voters is just another cynical and calculated page from that playbook.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a consultant with the Institute of the Black World and an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio-one. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Pacifica Radio.