Donald Trump defied the odds and stunned political pundits and many across the nation by defeating Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.
Trump, during his successful presidential campaign, told an all-White audience that he has a “new deal for Black America,” but he offered few specifics. When President-elect Donald Trump assumes office in January, will he be more specific?
The Trump presidency will offer “a tremendous opportunity…of strengthening our minority communities,” predicts Chris Fields, a retired Marine who since 2014 has been the Minnesota Republican Party deputy chair. “Trump is the guy who knows how to make things happen. I’ve seen it since I was [a teenager growing up in New York]. He takes big risks but gets big payoffs.”
Fields told the MSR that despite appearances, President Trump is not discriminatory: “It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you supported him or not supported him, Trump is going to stay true. He is someone who is driven to get things better.”
The 2016 presidential campaign was the most contentious and divisive in recent history. Both Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton were “political flash points” as far as unlikability was concerned, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
The poll also noted that most voters don’t see things changing whether Trump or Clinton is president: Fifty-five percent said the nation’s political divisions would increase under Trump, and 41 percent expected the same were Clinton elected. Twenty-six percent said it would stay about the same under Trump compared to 48 percent under Clinton.
“There are going to be a lot of upset people,” noted Southern Poverty Law Center Outreach Director Lecia Brooks prior to the election. “So whoever [is elected] will have to spend their transition time bringing the country together. There won’t be the traditional 100 days.”
“It would help to have a president who can build things,” said Fields. “Hillary has been talking about things for 30 years. Donald Trump for 30 years has been building actual things.”
However, the Pew poll found that Blacks (42 percent), women (38 percent), Latinos (35 percent) and immigrants (30 percent) believe that Trump has “little or no respect for these groups.”
There’s some “real skepticism…on the things he said” about Blacks, immigrants, women and others during his campaign, noted Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) Executive Director Anthony Newby on Trump. “I think there are very few of us who believe that somehow we will be special or [treated] different than how he’s treated women, immigrants and other folk. So there is a lot of skepticism that Trump somehow will treat Black people differently [than he has in the past].”
“I think that Trump has a real passion for people who have been taken advantage of,” argued Fields. “I feel the outreach to the Black community was sincere, and it’s going to continue well past his first 100 days.” He added that most Blacks will support the new president, especially if he pushes the federal government to finally do its job for all Americans.
But others who also talked to the MSR don’t see Trump’s presidency as a win for Black folk. “I think a Trump presidency would be a disaster for African Americans as well as Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans, let alone Muslim Americans,” noted University of Minnesota Journalism Professor Dr. Catherine Squires before election results were in. “It’s clear from his policies that he’s not interested in any real kind of tax reform. He’s not interested in any kind of environmental reform. He doesn’t want to see that global warming is a problem [and] that environmental discrimination exists [in] Black communities — [just] look at Flint.
“Whether we’re talking about the political climate or talking about the policy agenda, there’s no way a Trump presidency solves things,” Squires pointed out.
“There are a lot of questions on how his administration will [have] a possible impact on the Black community,” said Newby. “Trump needs to be pushed on the idea of this new urban renewal plan and what specifically is his plan to address the historical extraction of resources out of the cities. Just saying that I want to renew cities doesn’t primarily mean that it will help Black people.”
The new president’s tough stance on crime “does not bode particularly well for the Black community,” continued Newby. “He describes himself as a law-and-order guy. We know that’s dog-whistle language that means locking up Black and Brown folk. He’s a fan of Stop and Frisk in New York. He thinks that is a good policy to roll out nationally.”
Newby said he doesn’t recall Trump during his campaign making any real commitment “to do much of anything” for Black folk. “What we heard from him is these great declarations and that ‘What do you have to lose?’ famous quote. Trump has not outlined any specific plan or strategy to specifically address the Black community.”
Brooks said the hate rhetoric that came from the Trump campaign bothered her as well. “‘Trumpism’ emboldened people,” she pointed out.
Longtime civil rights activist and educator Dr. Josie Johnson offered a historical perspective to the 2016 election. She said the new president’s proposed policies will take Blacks “back to 1860 and remove our right to vote. I think Trump will take us back to slavery days and start all over again.”
“We are in a period of our history that needs to have critical thinkers leading America,” and Johnson said she believes Trump will work to erase all gains Blacks in this country saw under the outgoing Obama administration. “He has very little respect for us as a people,” she said of Trump.
Now that the 2016 election is over, can America, and especially Black America, move forward?
“I think it is time that Black people challenge conventional wisdom and reject the status quo” both statewide and nationally, stated Fields. “If we are not willing to do that, our children won’t have a future.
“Black people are starting this period way down at the bottom,” Fields said. “When things get worse, we go even further down. It’s time for us to stand up. We have to leverage our political power and divorce ourselves from the Democratic Party and become a people that vote our own interests.”
Blacks got political power thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, continued Fields, “and we’ve had a Black president. But that has not translated itself into healthy communities and economic power.”
“A specific racial component that intends to prioritize existing inequalities” is needed in this country, said Newby. “We can hold him accountable and his ideas and policies need to be tested. And [we need to] do our best to hold him to his word that he will negotiate on new ideas.
“By nature and by trade, he’s a capitalist,” continued Newby. “He cares about money and investments. The question is now can he extrapolate an investment strategy to the rest of the country and produce wealth for folk. Now it’s time to test that theory.”
“I see that Trump alone is uniquely qualified,” said Fields. He “has the background and the résumé to challenge the establishment, to break it apart and replace it with something better.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.