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George on Georgia – Black Voices for Trump

Decatur Editor's Pick George on Georgia

George on Georgia – Black Voices for Trump

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George Chidi


Full disclosure: I am literally a card-carrying Democrat. But I don’t go out of my way to beat up on Black Republicans. Their lives are hard enough as it is.

So, what to make of Black Voices for Trump in Georgia? They’re opening up a storefront on Ponce de Leon Avenue near Church Street in downtown Decatur in the next few weeks. Never mind of course that most Black people have been priced out of downtown Decatur, nothing says “Trump voter” like the Glenwood precinct, where Clinton beat Trump 1278 to 181 and turnout increased by about 50 percent for Stacey Abrams two years ago.

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I spoke briefly with Garrison Douglas, a party stalwart who is leading the Black Voices for Trump effort in Georgia. Douglas referred my questions to Savannah Viar, a spokesperson for Republicans in Georgia. I am still waiting for a formal conversation with an actual Black Voice for Trump. The party didn’t have anyone handy on short notice, it seems.

Republicans are trying to “make inroads with people who haven’t been touched by the Republican Party,” Viar said. “That’s a big focus of President Trump this cycle, making inroads with non-traditional Republican voters.”

The Republican Party thinks of offices like this as a kind of missionary work, the equivalent of Democrats opening up an office off of I-76 in Blue Ridge. This would be the first Black Voices for Trump office in the state, however. 

I note in passing that this former nail salon is not in Vernon Jones’ old stomping grounds of south DeKalb. Jones is trying to position himself as Trump’s main surrogate in Georgia. Opening up the office in his old district would probably backfire, because we actually know him. I’m surprised they signed off on a DeKalb office at all.

It’s July. This stuff was supposed to be up and running in March. At least, that was the plan when Trump came to Atlanta in November. People were incredulous, even then. 

“If anybody goes down there to his Blacks for Trump rally, it means they’re getting paid,” Congressman Hank Johnson said at the time. “And if you’re not getting paid you don’t need to go.”

The new Trump office is in Johnson’s district, just barely. The 5th District line is Clairmont Road. One may recall Trump described John Lewis’ 5th as “crime infested” in 2017 after Lewis said he would not attend the inauguration. 

How well that aged.

The fundamental impediment to Black voter outreach on behalf of the Trump campaign is Donald Trump.

I maintain sincere friendships with more than a few Republicans — Black and white — that I’ve met as I have written about politics over the years. Most of my friends are reasonable, which is to say that I get to be the weird one in the relationship. There’s no shortage of toxicity on the right, and it knows no racial boundary. (Looking at you, Kanye West and Vernon Jones.) But there’s also a bench of workaday Black conservatives in Georgia who vote Republican out of sincere, deeply-held beliefs — usually religious beliefs — who I think should not be dismissed out of hand by anyone. And they’re in a very special kind of hell right now.

Consider people of faith who have been voting Republican because they believe that’s where their values find the best political expression. They’ve decided that it’s easier to fight racism within the Republican Party than it would be to fight against abortion or gay rights in the Democratic Party. Only, Donald Trump makes a mockery of religious conservatism, isn’t a particularly competent president and increasingly makes an internal war against racism within the party difficult.

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Kanye West plainly needs help. But for the one million black conservatives in the United States, a Black evangelical on the ballot looks like a perfectly rational protest vote.  

I harbor a hope, unrealistic perhaps, that we will return to politics that aren’t rooted in radioactive animosity someday. Once upon a time, I thought of the push and pull of ideological debate between classical conservatism and progressive liberalism as natural and healthy — a check on the worst impulses of extremists and a means to find the right answer to hard problems. 

That’s been poisoned by right-leaning racism driving policy. When this is all over — and by this, I mean Trumpist Republicanism — I suspect that the job of purging the right of its toxins will be given to Black conservatives upholding conservative principles while demanding Republicans stop making common cause with racists.

It’s a dream, I suppose. I dream of normalcy again, minus the march to dystopia, of course. 

– George Chidi is a political columnist and public policy advocate.

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