Black voters say they won't forget Trump's racist tweets

July 24, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to kids as he tours the Youth Empowerment Project that targets at risk youth and young people with the drum line in New Orleans, Tuesday, July 23, 2019.

DETROIT Robin D. Stephens lived through Jim Crow and thought the worst days of racism were behind her. Then President Donald Trump told four American congresswomen of color to "go back" to where they came from .

"It was very hurtful to see the person who is the leader of the country that I live in and that I respect and love, speak that way to U.S. citizens," said Stephens, a 61-year-old retired public defender who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

But Stephens is tired of talking about Trump's racist tweets. She is ready to take her pain to the polls.

"What I want to talk about now to people and to get people excited about and to get people wanting to go out to vote about now is the fact that this came from the White House," Stephens said. "We can change that. And the way we change that is by voting."

Democratic presidential candidates gathering in Detroit on Wednesday to address the annual NAACP convention will need voters like Stephens to keep that passion heading into next year's election. Trump is gambling that his attacks on the four congresswomen , which he revived on Tuesday, will help him secure another term in the White House by galvanizing his most fervent, overwhelmingly white supporters.

But dozens of black leaders, activists and voters in pivotal swing states said they're just as motivated to vote and won't forget Trump's actions.

"I see more people engaged and responding to the comments, people who aren't political, friends of mine who vote more casually, they are responding," said Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is black and from Milwaukee, where Democrats will meet to declare their nominee at the party's convention next summer.

In 2016, black turnout was down about 7 percentage points nationally compared with 2012, according to census estimates. Barnes said the Republican president's comments are resonating with people "in a more real way" than past statements he's made, which could translate into increased turnout next November.

"The most important thing that we can have happen is the president needs to keep talking because he's showing his true colors, he's showing how he really feels," said David Bowen, a Wisconsin state representative from Milwaukee who is black. "These overt racist incidents are going to wake people up and remind them that four more years of the president is not going to benefit this country, not benefit African Americans."

Angela Lang, who started Black Leaders Organizing for Communities after Trump's 2016 victory, agreed.

"This is all hands on deck," she said in response to Trump's comments. "We can't tolerate this. I think people are fed up. It's agitating people in a way to engage them to do whatever they can for 2020."

Woke Vote founder DeJuana Thompson said it's a sentiment she has been hearing as she has worked to expand voter turnout in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Thompson said that regardless of the race of the candidates, there is an expectation from voters of color that the 2020 Democrats must confront racism on the campaign trail.

"There's not a different standard being applied," Thompson said. "The standard is justice. The standard is equity. And if you're not saying those things, it is landing particularly on people of color's ears very differently than it ever has before."

Speaking to the NAACP on Wednesday, several Democratic White House hopefuls blasted Trump's record on race. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker derided Trump's reference to African nations as "s***hole countries." Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Trump is trying to "divide people up in order to gain power."

Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor mounting a longshot challenge to Trump for the Republican nomination, called the president a "raging racist," ignoring Trump's claim last week that he doesn't have "a racist bone" in his body.

Some African Americans are still weighing Trump's actions and how it might influence their vote. Michael Brown, a 34-year-old who lives in Philadelphia, said he believes the country is increasingly divided along racial lines, but he isn't sure whether he'll vote next year. If he does go to the polls, racism won't be a factor in his decision.

He said he isn't sure whether the president is racist, though Brown said "it appears like he could be" based on some of his past statements.

"For me, I would have to hear 'I hate black people, I hate Asians, I hate Hispanics,' to be like, OK, he's a racist," he said, adding that he understands why some would take Trump's comments about the congresswomen as racism.

Reggie Hall Jr. saw the president's tweets and talk differently and said Trump's rhetoric has only escalated since he took office.

"I think he went too far from the beginning, but him condemning the four congresswomen, if you're looking for a final straw, that could probably be it," said Hall, 32, of Philadelphia.

Hall, who backed Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, participates in most elections and said that he's "extremely motivated" to vote in 2020. While race and racism aren't the sole factors in his decision of whom to support among the Democratic primary candidates, Hall said he does want to hear from them on matters of race.

"If you're going to try to weave this coalition together, you need to address the fact that race is a factor in a lot of things," Hall said. "Whoever comes out of the Democratic primary, their response to race and race relations, for me personally, is going to be better than anything Trump has said."

Environmentalists want candidates to focus on clean water

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. Environmental groups in the Great Lakes region want the 2020 presidential candidates to talk more about clean water.

Groups led by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition released a five-part platform Tuesday that they'll ask the candidates to support.

It seeks $475 million in annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which deals with chronic problems such as toxic pollution and wetlands loss.

Other proposals include upgrading drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, keeping invasive species such as Asian carp out of the lakes, reducing harmful algae blooms and upholding clean-water laws.

Coalition executive director Laura Rubin said each candidate should offer plans for providing clean drinking water, calling it the campaign's biggest issue.

The groups released their proposals ahead of Democratic presidential debates scheduled for July 30-31 in Detroit.

Ethanol producers launch pro-Trump ad in refinery fight

MADISON Ethanol advocates are launching a television ad praising President Donald Trump for supporting the industry.

Growth Energy launched the 30-second spot on Tuesday. It features Scott Henry, a corn farmer from Nevada, Iowa. He calls Trump the greatest champion for ethanol.

According to Growth Energy, the ad will run on Fox News and in states across the country. Growth Energy representative Joe Fadness said the ad will appear in Wisconsin but declined to identify other states or the cost.

Trump's administration has been caught between the oil industry and corn growers, two key flanks of Trump's base.

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers ran an ad in Wisconsin and other swing states this month criticizing Trump for lifting a summertime ban on gasoline mixed with 15% ethanol.

Businesses favored GOP with cash in first half of 2019

MADISON A new analysis shows Wisconsin Republicans took in nearly five times as much in corporate contributions as Democrats during the first half of 2019.

Government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign released a report Tuesday that shows corporations gave a total of $321,910 to the state GOP, the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate between January and June.

The state Democratic Party, Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee and the State Senate Democratic Committee took in $64,875 in corporate contributions during that span.

The top contributor was Charter Communications, which gave $12,000 each to the Republican legislative committees and $4,000 each to the Democratic legislative committees.


Associated Press