By Jesse Jackson Sr.
If a lie is repeated often enough, the truth may never catch up. Donald Trump understands this better than anyone, as he showers Americans with lies — often the same ones repeated over and over — knowing that more voters will hear him than the fact-checkers.
One of his favorite lines is his oft-repeated claim that “I’ve done more for African Americans than anybody, except for the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.” No one should fall for the con.
For example, Trump doesn’t come close to Harry Truman, who desegregated the U.S. military, an act of simple justice that took immense courage.
He’s done nothing as important as Dwight Eisenhower who dispatched troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to overcome resistance to school integration.
He can’t hold a candle to Lyndon Johnson, who, working with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, passed the Civil Rights Bill ending segregation in public facilities, the Voting Rights Act enforcing the right to vote, and the War on Poverty that reduced poverty to levels still not matched.
But comparing Trump to presidents who actually made things better is to fall into his trap, for Trump hasn’t done things for African Americans, he has done things to them.
He’s embraced the Republican strategy of race-bait politics, only he’s replaced their dog whistles with a bullhorn. He celebrated the neo-Nazis and other extremists marching against civil rights protesters in Charlottesville.
He’s tried to rouse support from suburbanites by charging that Joe Biden’s support for affordable housing would “destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream.” He’s labeled cities with large minority populations like New York City as “anarchist jurisdictions” that should be stripped of federal support.
He boasts about the historically low unemployment rate that was reached before the pandemic from the growing economy he inherited from President Barack Obama. He says nothing about the catastrophic depression in the pandemic that left Blacks and Hispanics suffering the lowest employment rate ever by the end of April.
Trump’s Small Business Administration stiffed African Americans in dispensing loans through the Pay Protection Plan. More than 9 of 10 black-owned small businesses that applied for loans were denied. That led directly to over 40% of black-owned businesses shutting down in the pandemic.
Trump measures the economy’s success not by the health of the people, but by the health of the stock market, but while 61% of whites participate in the stock market (although for most the holdings are meager), only one-third of blacks own stocks.
Nearly one-half of black women report that they are unable to pay for necessities like food and housing, even though most work. Over half have less than $200 in savings. Trump doesn’t help. He did nothing to raise the minimum wage and has been actively hostile to unions that help workers bargain a fair wage.
Essential workers are disproportionately African American. Blacks are disproportionately in low-wage jobs, often without employer-based health care. The pandemic has killed Black people at double the rate of whites.
African Americans have suffered the most from Trump’s mismanagement. Blacks have been more likely to be denied health care, and less likely to have paid sick days.
And Trump has basically been AWOL as the Republican Senate blocked action on a relief plan as unemployment insurance was running out, and states and cities were facing massive cuts in services and jobs — disproportionately held by people of color — in the wake of the pandemic-caused fiscal crisis.
Trump not only has done nothing to revive the Voting Right Act, gutted by the right-wing gang of five on the Supreme Court, he and his party have actively worked to suppress Black voting — passing ID requirements, shutting down polling places, purging voter lists, making registration harder, limiting early voting, undermining vote by mail, gerrymandering districts and more — all designed with laser focus to reduce the Black vote.
In short, Trump has left African Americans in the deepest hole with the shortest rope. Not surprisingly, most won’t fall for Trump’s big con. African Americans — and particularly African-American women — will vote overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. The base for Trump and Republicans will continue to be those not repelled by his racially divisive rhetoric and policies.
Periodically, however, it is useful to remind people that night is not day, that hate is not love. When Lincoln freed the slaves, they joined the Union armies in large numbers and helped save the Republic. Trump can’t be mentioned in the same breath as Lincoln, and African Americans aren’t about to save him.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition.
Trump measures the economy’s success not by the health of the people, but by the health of the stock market.