An overwhelming number of African Americans believe that President Donald Trump is set on turning the clock back on race relations, according to a recent poll, but a third of the respondents don’t believe that the Democratic party cares about their needs.
The poll, conducted for NAACP by the African American Research Collaborative and Latino Decisions, surveyed people in 61 of the nation’s most competitive midterm races to examine the views of African-American, White, Latino, Asian American and Native American voters.
“The vote is under attack,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, who took part in a teleconference Tuesday to announce the poll results with Jamal R. Watkins, NAACP vice president of civic engagement; Henry Fernandez, principal for the African American Research Collaborative, and Ray Block Jr., a professor at the University of Kentucky who helped conduct the survey.
According to the poll, 78 percent of the African Americans questioned believe that Trump has caused a setback in race relations and even though some Kanye West, Jim Brown and a few African Americans publicly support or have meet with Trump polls show those efforts have not won the president additional support.
While the NAACP is a nonpartisan group and doesn’t endorse, Watkins said the goal of the NAACP this year is to register new voters in a critical way.
“Our ultimate goal is for to people have their voices heard at the ballot box,” he said. “It is about us taking action.”
While Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has been endorsed by a number of African Americans and Democrats and has been leading in the polls, Watkins said Maryland needs to focus on the issues and what has Hogan done in terms of his record.
In recent weeks, some prominent African Americans in Prince George’s County have endorsed Hogan, Trump’s daughter Ivanka has visited Prince George’s Community College and first lady Melania Trump has spoken up to support a school program ran by NBA star LeBron James after her husband took to Twitter to insult James.
But Fernandez said, “When celebrities do this, it is largely perceived as manipulation.”
Watkins concurred and lambasted the recent meeting Trump had with a handful of African-American pastors.
“The NAACP and faith leaders are crystal-clear that we will not be divided or diverted by the false appearance of engagement,” he said. “The other side can appear to engage our community, but [if] the track record and history is not there, then people have to vote for the candidates who will make life better” for themselves.
During the White House meeting, Mike Freeman, pastor of Spirit of Faith Christian Center, invited Trump to visit his church and Trump said he would come, according to a White House transcript of the meeting between the president and about a dozen ministers including gospel artist Marvin Winans.
The group also included pastors loyal to Trump such as Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and Alveeda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s my great honor to be here today with some of the leading pastors and faith leaders from across our nation,” Trump said during the meeting. “These are great people, most of whom I know. And my administration is open, 100 percent, and we have been. We’ve had tremendous support, and I appreciate that.”
During the meeting, Trump touted his accomplishments and was praised for his efforts to reopen steel mills in Birmingham, create programs for ex-offenders and improve the economy.
At one point, Pastor Darrell Scott said, “And people ask me why do I defend [Trump] so vociferously. And I say it’s easy for me to do it because I know him, and he’s shown me his heart, and I know he has a heart for all Americans.”
But Watkins said the electorate will not be persuaded by “validators” sent into the community to sell Trump’s agenda.
And even though Trump said that he planned to visit the Spirit of Faith Christian Center, which has several locations in Prince George’s County, Watkins said when it comes to politicians gleaning for votes in the pews, “we won’t be fooled.”