Remember Donald Trump’s eloquent appeal to black voters in 2016: “What the hell do you have to lose?” This time his campaign is focusing more on a single word: woke.
As part of their effort to win black voters, the Trump campaign will open 15 “community centers” — replete with Woke merch and messages — in vacant retail stores in Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Milwaukee, Miami, and Philadelphia, as early as next month. The spaces will feature TVs and literature outlining Trump’s record on issues like criminal justice reform and school choice, and they’ll also host celebrity meet-and-greets, amid an array of Trump-branded merch, including sweatshirts and hats with the word “woke” embroidered on them.
Black folks who find themselves curious about the Trump platform are encouraged to text “woke” to Trump’s campaign number — we tried it and it just asks the sender to reply with their zip code to “stand with Trump against the fake news”, and then take a basic survey.
It’s all part of the campaign’s “Black Voices for Trump” initiative, led by senior Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson and promoted by Jared Kushner on Wednesday.
“Last time it was ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’” the president’s son-in-law and adviser told reporters in Virginia. Kushner has been one of Trump’s key advisers on criminal justice reform, one of the platforms the campaign is touting to undecided black voters.
“Now, we’re going to show them what they’ve gained from President Trump and what more they could gain if they get more four years,” Kushner said.
Black voters in the U.S. have historically sided with the Democratic Party for nearly six decades and have become one of the party’s most consistent voter bases. It is currently the most contested vote in the upcoming South Carolina Democratic primary.
In 2016, Trump captured just 8% of black voters in the general election. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told reporters that they want to at least double black turnout for Trump in the 2020 election by engaging parts of the country that previous Republican campaigns have ignored.
“You’re never going to get the votes you don’t ask for,” Kushner said. “This is really more than a toe in the water. It’s a whole foot in the water.”
Trump has wanted to court the black vote since he first ran for president. During a rally in Dimondale, Michigan, in 2016, he told a mostly white audience he’d be able to capture 95% of the black vote by the end of his first term. Last November, Trump attended a rally in Atlanta to kick off the “Black Voices For Trump” initiative and met with several high-profile black supporters, including Pastor Darrell Scott, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. Earlier this month, Trump ran Super Bowl ads featuring Alice Johnson, the formerly incarcerated woman who Trump pardoned in June 2018.
It’s not looking great for Trump in 2020. On the same day the campaign announced the Trump-branded community centers, the Public Religion Research Institute published a study showing that 77 percent of black Americans hold mostly or very unfavorable views of the president. A poll conducted by Hill-HarrisX last November predicted that 85 percent of African Americans would vote for the Democratic candidate regardless of who the nominee is.
Cover: In this Jan. 16, 2020, photo, from left, attendees of a black voter outreach event held by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign at Philadelphia’s First Immanuel Baptist Church assemble for a group picture after the discussion. Trump’s reelection campaign is reaching out to black voters through one of their communities’ most important institutions — black churches. (AP Photo/Elana Schor)