Posted on May 28, 2020

Inside the Dizzying Effort to Pitch President Trump to Black Voters

Annie Karni, New York Times, May 26, 2020

Nearly every week this spring, President Donald Trump’s reelection team has held one of the most peculiar events of the 2020 online campaign: “Black Voices for Trump Real Talk.” It is a dizzying effort by Trump’s black advisers to put their spin on his record — often with a hall-of-mirrors quality, as they push false claims about opponents while boosting a president who retweets racist material.

The most recent session, on Saturday night, was one of the most head-spinning yet. For an hour on a livestream, three black Republicans tried to portray former Vice President Joe Biden as a racist, while ignoring decades of racially divisive behavior by Trump, from his remarks on the Central Park Five to birtherism to Charlottesville.

Katrina Pierson, a campaign adviser, led the discussion from her living room, wearing a white sweatshirt with a recent gaffe by Biden printed in block letters: “#YouAintBlack.” Another adviser, Ken Blackwell, former mayor of Cincinnati, had a message for Democrats, saying, “Don’t believe your eyes and ears, that’s what they’re telling black folks.”

The Trump campaign has been eager to court black voters, hoping to chip away at some of the overwhelming support Democrats enjoyed from them four years ago, when Trump won just 8% of African American votes. His advisers often highlight the administration’s work on criminal justice reform and financial support for historically black colleges and universities as twin planks of their appeal.

Using gimmicks like campaign swag emblazoned with the word “Woke,” Trump campaign officials are aiming for black millennials who they think may have no cultural or personal affinity for Biden, a 77-year-old white Democrat.

But the campaign’s chief pitch to black voters going into the 2020 presidential election — a lower unemployment rate among African Americans — has eroded in the past few months. {snip}


Trump’s own record did not deter his campaign from dedicating almost a full hour to slicing and dicing Biden’s three unfortunate words. They played Biden’s “you ain’t black” clip 22 times, including once in slow motion. {snip}


The Trump campaign wants to turn that tide, partly with its “Black Voices for Trump” events that it holds online every 7 to 10 days. The show, hosted by Pierson with a rotating cast of guests, typically finds a way to amplify the White House message of the day and drive home the same talking points about the black unemployment rate.