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Trump courts Black voters during Detroit campaign stop

Former President Donald Trump campaigned in Detroit on Saturday, June 15, 2024.
Russ McNamara
/
WDET
Former President Donald Trump campaigned in Detroit on Saturday, June 15, 2024.

Former President Donald Trump made a play for Black voters during a campaign stop in Detroit on Saturday.

The presumptive Republican nominee shied away from some of his frequent talking points like election conspiracies and claims that prosecutors are treating him unfairly in his criminal trials.

Instead, Trump touched on many issues he felt would be relevant to Black voters, including immigration, the economy and criminal justice.

Trump made a point of tying his Democratic opponent, President Joe Biden, to mass incarceration. That’s because of Biden’s support for 1994 legislation which, at the time, had support from Black leaders but has also received blame for growing prison numbers.

The former President, however, also spent a chunk of his time discussing tough on crime policies.

“Crime is most rampant right here and in African American communities. And more people see me, and they say, ‘Sir, we want protection, we want police to protect us. We don’t want to get robbed and mugged and beat up or killed because we want to walk across the street to buy a loaf of bread,’” Trump said.

Democrats are countering many of Trump’s claims by referencing statistics from the FBI and Brennan Center for Justice suggesting violent crime rose under Trump’s administration and dropped in Michigan during Biden’s.

The speech comes at a time when both the Trump and Biden campaign are courting Black voters, especially around Detroit.

Recent polls have suggested Black voters in Michigan, who have reliably voted for Democrats and are still largely expected to, have shown an openness to supporting Trump.

During a speech leading up to the roundtable, Republican U.S. Representative John James said it was time Black voters gave Republicans a chance.

“You look at who’s been left behind economically. The Dow Jones is up, we have the NFL draft, we have the train station, that’s all good. But how are we feeling out in the neighborhoods?” James said.

“We continue to get left behind until we decide that that story ends,” James said.

“When you look at who controls the major levers of power for Detroiters, look at who it is. Don’t believe me, believe your own eyes. President? White. Governor? White. Mayor? White. Senators? White. Attorney General? White. Secretary of State? White. UAW President? White. MEA (Michigan Education Association) President? White.”

On that same token, Democrats are pointing out that Trump, who is also white, has his own tense relationship with the Black community.

Jasmine Harris is director of Black media for the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign.

“Donald Trump thinks the fact that he has ‘many Black friends’ excuses an entire lifetime of denigrating and disrespecting Black Americans, but Black voters know better — and Trump’s eleventh hour attempt at Black ‘outreach’ isn’t fooling anyone.

“Black voters haven’t forgotten that this man entered public life calling for the death penalty for the innocent Central Park 5 and entered political life spreading racist conspiracy theories about Barack Obama. We haven’t forgotten that Black unemployment and uninsured rates skyrocketed when Trump was in the White House. And we sure haven’t forgotten Trump repeatedly cozying up to white supremacists and demonizing Black communities to his political benefit – because that’s exactly what he’ll do if he wins a second term,” a statement from Harris read.

It's unclear how many Black voters Trump reached during Saturday’s roundtable. It took place at a Black church in Detroit’s northwest side. And some notable Black faces, including Ben Carson and Detroit Rappers Sada Baby, Icewear Vezzo, and Peezy, were in attendance.

But the crowd also had a sizeable number of white attendees too.

Detroiter Celestine Todd is among the Black voters who Trump reached on Saturday.

Todd said she came to the speech unsure of Trump. But she says she left feeling like the Democratic Party may have lost her support.

Todd, who has a son serving overseas, said she feels like Biden isn’t keeping promises around foreign policy.

“We’re giving billions of dollars overseas. And we have people that have great needs here in these United States, right here in Detroit, right here in Michigan. So, I’ve really lost kind of all of my trust,” Todd said.

Democrats say Biden has delivered on promises. They pointed to economic numbers like relatively low Black unemployment, a relatively high number of Black Americans with health insurance, and other metrics.

Colin Jackson is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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