Trump Ignores His Base in Favor of Blacks
In the final days of 2018, President Trump is trying to please blacks rather than work to keep his campaign promises. His new priority? Sentencing reform. Even though President Trump campaigned on the wall and immigration restriction, they are on the back burner in favor of releasing thousands of criminals. The Senate has just passed this reform bill—dubbed the First Step Act—and Republican lawmakers are happy to point out that its main purpose is to help blacks.
The First Step Act would erase the difference in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine possession, ease “third strike and you’re out” rules, reduce mandatory minimum sentencing, restrict the effect of gun charges on drug offenders, and expand the number of “good-time credits” prisoners can earn. Republicans insist that current sentencing standards are unfair to blacks.
When Mr. Trump announced his support for the bill in November, he said mandatory minimums “disproportionately affect the African-American community.” Conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz echoed this sentiment: “It is an opportunity to correct manifest injustices in the system. There are far too many young black men who find themselves incarcerated for years or even decades based on nonviolent drug offenses.”
Nearly alone among Republicans, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton attacked the bill. He argues that the new good-time credit system would lead to the release of thousands of sex offenders and violent felons. Conservative backers of the bill have brushed off Sen. Cotton’s charges by playing the race card. Black Trump supporter Candace Owens insisted that his opposition to the bill was “denying millions of blacks the opportunities presented via the First Step Act.”
These laws disproportionately affect blacks because blacks commit more crime per capita than any other group. Republicans never mention this and instead parrot the Left’s charges of systemic racism. They seem to have no problem supporting bills that specifically benefit blacks. However, one could never imagine Mr. Trump or a Republican saying he was tackling the opioid epidemic or mass immigration because they disproportionately hurt whites.
This preoccupation with blacks isn’t limited to sentencing reform. The Trump administration is also reviving the failed experiment of “free enterprise zones” in black ghettos under the new name of “opportunity zones.”
Last week, Mr. Trump announced an executive order that would pump more federal dollars into these areas and create a council to oversee the program. He was surrounded by black politicians and activists as he made this announcement, an obvious sign of who benefits. Studies have shown that opportunity zones do little to help blacks, but Republicans continue to promote them because they are a “free market” form of uplift. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Jack Kemp promoted enterprise zones as the GOP’s secret to winning black voters. Twenty years later, they haven’t done blacks much good, and the party still gets only 10 percent of the black vote.
The chances for the border wall, on the other hand, are growing slimmer. The president brawled with Democrat leaders before the cameras last week over wall funding, threatening to shut down the government to make them fund it. This could be just one more empty threat, as the White House appeared to back down from it yesterday.
Compare the lackluster efforts to fund the wall with the all-out push for sentencing reform. Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has worked tirelessly persuading conservative media and Republican lawmakers to support it. We have seen no such effort to fund the wall.
In 2016, candidate Trump campaigned against the failures of the conservative establishment. He urged law and order when his primary opponents wanted to coddle Black Lives Matter. He put the interests of middle- and working-class whites before non-white outreach. He refused to support amnesty and sentencing reform because he knew they would hurt the country.
Now that Mr. Trump faces an intimidating special counsel investigation, a Democrat-controlled House, and tough prospects for reelection, he dusts off the hopeless GOP approaches he once fought. What happened to the Trump middle America elected? If the man who sits in the Oval Office wants a second term, he better rediscover the old Trump soon.