Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images
Before President Trump left Miami on Thursday another long day on the campaign trail, he had a private meeting with a supporter with a large following among a group of voters whose campaign has been courtship all year: rapper Lil Wayne.
Later, Lil Wayne revealed the meeting to nearly 35 million fans on Twitter.
Just had a good meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus in addition to what he has done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan will give society real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured that he will and can get it done. 🤙🏾 pic.twitter.com/Q9c5k1yMWf
– Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) October 29, 2020
The Trump campaign, happy with the approval, promoted it to its outreach list of black voters. It’s still a very long shot. Black voters are a reliable source of strong support for Democratic presidential candidates, and no rapper will make a big dent in it.
But after gaining only 8 percent of the black vote in 2016, Trump hopes to achieve at least some gains this time around.
It has been a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, the campaign promotes his track record of criminal law reform, funding for historic black colleges, and other issues important to black voters.
But time and time again, Trump has also tried to drive home a clear message to black voters: do not vote for Joe Biden. Trump has blamed Biden for almost every policy that has negatively impacted black Americans over the past 40 years.
Even when Trump unveiled his second agenda for black voters called “The Platinum Plan,” he spent most of his time basing Joe Biden and naming him more than 20 times.
Critics say this strategy is more aimed at deterring black people from participating in the process at all than winning them over. But the Trump campaign has denied that this is their intention.
Campaign adviser Katrina Pierson says the goal is to draw a contrast and push against the notion that the Trump presidency has not been good for black people.
“It’s a very conscious argument to make, given that America has to make a choice about who they want to lead our country for the next four years,” Pierson said in an interview.
Attempts to convert black voters into Trump supporters have always been a high order. But the Trump campaign has poured money into outreach to African Americans, and advisers say they believe they have made some interventions.
The campaign spent $ 20 million on radio and television ads – including a Super Bowl venue – as well as door-knocking operations and the opening of 17 field offices in black neighborhoods in swing states.
Voting has shown some growth in support in certain parts of the black election, but experts are skeptical about how much of an impact it will have.
The website FiveThirtyEight.com conducted an analysis earlier this month that showed that Trump did better with younger African Americans. His support was at 21 percent in 2020 with voters under 44, compared to 10 percent in 2016. Recent surveys have since shown Trump’s support among young black voters, but he is still slightly more popular with them than with older black voters.
The problem for Trump is that younger voters are not as committed as the older ones to getting out to vote, although there are some signs that the youth turnout will be higher than normal this year.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images
“To the extent that Donald Trump is penetrating the younger black voters, they are more likely the voters who are already going to vote Republicans, or the voters who traditionally do not vote at all, and they are a bit disconnected,” said Theodore Johnson of the Brennan Center for Justice.
Johnson, who is studying the role of the race in elections, points to the 2012 presidential election as a good example of how young people do not always show up.
Turnout for African-American voters under 30 fell that year, but former President Barack Obama benefited from an increase in black voters over the age of 45. Even with the decline in young voters, black turnout still surpassed white turnout for the first time ever.
“Older individuals are not willing to not only show up, but they are willing to endure the shit required to turn out,” said Chryl Laird, co-author of a book on black political behavior.
There is another part of the black voting bloc that has shown some openness to Trump: black men. While most black men are not Trump supporters, they are more likely to support the president than black women.
The campaign has sought to appeal to black men by highlighting former athletes who support Trump – and recently some big name rap stars.
Rapper 50 Cent briefly expressed support for Trump in an explicitly-ridden post on Instagram after complaining that Biden would raise his taxes. Later he went back with his statements.
50 Cent represents the type of black male voter who is more likely to find Trump appealing, Laird said.
“Clearly, his monetary gains and his monetary goals outweigh his views on where the black society is, or what black people think of him at all. And he said that,” Laird said.
Another rapper, Ice Cube, also announced that he was working on the Trump campaign for its “Platinum Plan” for black economic empowerment. Told Ice Cube Fox News Sunday that he still had not decided who would get his vote, but he was willing to work with the one who would help African Americans.
Trump adviser Pierson says she thinks the strategy will work. She believes Trump will reach the double digits among black voters this time.
But Johnson said a rise of a few points would not represent a historic level of support for a Republican president. The only Republicans in recent decades who fared worse than Trump with black voters were on the ballot against the first black president.
“What we see today is not Donald Trump converting black voters to the Republican Party. We see black Republicans coming home,” Johnson said.