Of all the idiotic remarks one could make while President Trump is trying to reach black voters, this ranks as one of the dumbest. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner inserted his foot in his mouth during a Fox News interview in which he seemed to imply that black Americans do not want success badly enough.
The conversation centered on President Trump’s Platinum Plan and the fact that rapper Ice Cube collaborated with members of Trump’s campaign team to create the president’s black agenda. Kushner weighed in, giving his thoughts on the matter:
“One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about. But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”
He added, “What you’re seeing throughout the country now is a groundswell of support in the Black community because they’re realizing that all the different bad things that the media and the Democrats have said about President Trump are not true, and so they’re seeing that he’s actually delivered.”
Kushner’s comments come amid a concerted effort by the Trump administration to increase the president’s support among black voters. In 2016, Trump received only eight percent of the overall black vote, but earned double-digit support from black men. Recent signs indicate that he may increase his support among black men.
This is why the senior adviser’s comments were ill-advised. His remarks seem to indicate that black Americans might not desire success enough to overcome the obstacles they face. By intimating that Trump might actually care more about the success of the black community than black people, Kushner is veering too close to another inaccurate trope that has been peddled by the Republican establishment for decades: The notion that black people are unwilling to work towards their own progress.
For years, many on the right have suggested that all — or most — of the problems black people face are due to their lack of self-determination. They put forth the idea that black Americans wish to remain reliant on the state and vote primarily for “free stuff.” Some still repeat this myth without irony as they point out the fact that under President Trump, black unemployment reached historic lows.
The reality is that black Americans strive for success just as ardently as everyone else, despite the roadblocks placed in front of them by the government — especially local governments that run predominantly black cities. The fact remains that Democratic policies like redlining, Jim Crow, lax accountability for police officers, and business repellent tax codes have all contributed to the problems within black communities. While both parties have participated in governmental actions that disproportionately harmed black Americans, the Democrats clearly deserve the lion’s share of the blame.
Despite the harsh impact of faulty, and in many cases, racist policies, most blacks have achieved a level of success. The majority of black Americans are not living in poverty and are not reliant on government programs like welfare. However, the legacy of the Democrats has created a vast racial wealth disparity, which has made it increasingly difficult for black Americans to close the gap.
President Trump’s Platinum Plan is designed to provide greater economic opportunities for the black community, and if he is re-elected and follows through on his plans, black Americans will take advantage of them. This is why implying that the president might care more about the success of black America than blacks themselves is particularly ill-advised and, even with eight days until Election Day might come off as suspect.
Kushner’s statements reek of elitism, the same type of paternalistic attitude that white progressives adopt towards members of the working class. It is the type of rhetoric that black Democrats already associate with the right, and unfortunately, their views are not unfounded.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. If President Obama had made similar remarks about whites in the midwest, people on the right would push back against his elitism. The reaction to his painfully out-of-touch “bitter clingers” comments illustrates this perfectly.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Kushner meant to make such condescending remarks. It is possible that he meant something different. But the fact remains: If the conservative movement wants to earn more black support, its messengers must communicate with them the same way they do with whites.
When was the last time you heard Republicans or members of the Trump administration make the same type of comments about poor whites in Mississippi? Case in point.
We are at a pivotal time in American history — black people are not as enamored with the Democratic Party as it may seem. Indeed, if this election season teaches us anything, it should show us that black people have grown weary of the Democrats’ unfulfilled promises and mindless pandering. But none of this matters if the Republican Party does not rise to the challenge with a new approach, one based on a genuine understanding of the black community instead of a platform founded on stereotypes and stale talking points.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Follow me on Twitter: @JeffOnTheRight