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If there is one key takeaway from President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, it is that he is going to seriously compete for the black vote in the coming election. Trump is not leaving anything on the table this time around, and his speech provided a roadmap of sorts for how he would campaign for a second term.

Trying to secure black support will be a part of his reelection strategy, as Trump in his address before a joint session of Congress sought to show how he is working to help African Americans. For example, the White House invited almost a dozen guests to the State of the Union, and five of them were black including Charles McGee, a Tuskegee airman who recently turned 100, together with his great-grandson Iain Lanphier, as well as Stephanie Davis, a single mother from Philadelphia, and her daughter, Janiyah Davis.

During his remarks Trump pointedly praised the guests and singled out McGee, Davis and others for long applause as he explained how each of them fit into the issues he is championing from science to criminal justice reform. Political prognostication may pick up this subliminal message from the president: Trump is not all that bad for blacks. Give him a chance for the second time.

Days before his congressional address, some of the president’s black allies were reportedly giving away cash at events in the black community aimed at promoting Trump. The strange effort organized under the Urban Revitalization Coalition, a nonprofit run by Darrell Scott, a black minister and staunch defender of Trump, has raised eyebrows about whether the group’s actions are legally permitted. In the era of Trump, nothing should surprise us.   

Still, it is an all-out crusade by Trump’s ardent followers trying to break the Democrats’ hold on the black vote. The president doesn’t need to have a considerable amount of black support in this election. If he can get anywhere from 20-25%, he would have already done serious damage to Democrats. There is no indication whatsoever that Trump will ever be able to muster that kind of support in black America. But his willingness to engage the black community in 2020 should motivate Democrats to do more to earn the black vote beyond repeating the same old, ineffective and tired talking points that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did in her response to the State of the Union.  

Democrats make a grave mistake if they think that blacks’ fear of Trump is enough to produce a massive groundswell of black voters on Election Day. Facing a very unclear nomination process now, in light of the disastrous Iowa caucuses, the white liberal establishment represented by the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden will have to offer more than a condemnation of Trump.

Whitmer, a product of the white liberal establishment, did not go beyond the safe script. As usual, she talked about roads that are still not fixed. She didn’t discuss Detroit or Benton Harbor, two urban cities that symbolize both the challenges and the resilience of most black people who are mired in inequality. Yet the eventual Democratic nominee will expect blacks from these urban centers and others around the nation to come out in full force and embrace the ticket simply because Trump is the alternative.

Boston Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who gave her own alternative response to the State of the Union, reminded her party what is stake this year.

“I said that defeating Donald Trump was not enough,” Pressley said. “We have to both resist and progress in pursuit of equity and justice in all of our communities.”

bankole@bankolethompson.com

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at 11 a.m. weekdays on Superstation 910AM.

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