Trump pledges to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, designate KKK a terrorist group in pitch to Black voters

President Trump on Friday made a direct appeal to Black voters with a slew of targeted policy pledges if he’s reelected in November, including making Juneteenth a federal holiday and prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist organization.

Trump, speaking to supporters in Atlanta, unveiled what he dubbed the “Platinum Plan” for Black voters, outlining what a second term policy agenda could look like for African Americans. The plan leans heavily on economic proposals, such as tax cuts for minority-owned businesses, further focus on opportunity zones that encourage investment in low-income areas and additional money for broadband and internet access to foster job and educational opportunities. 

Certain proposals, such as making Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery, a federal holiday would require congressional approval.

The campaign event, hosted by Black Voters for Trump, featured several prominent Black public figures, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Heisman Award winner Herschel Walker.

The president, who’s trailing in the polls to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, has recently upped his courting of Black voters, a crucial voting bloc. The Republican National Convention program last month featured a number of speakers who pushed back against characterizations of the president as a racist.

Biden has a significant lead over Trump among Black voters, but his lead is less substantial than the one former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had in the 2016 general election in which Trump ultimately prevailed.

“No one in Washington politics today has done more to hurt African Americans than Joe Biden,” Trump said, hitting the Democratic nominee for his role in the 1994 crime bill and trade policies that he argued damaged the economy for Black Americans.

The president also hit Biden for his comments earlier this year that if African Americans support Trump, “you ain’t Black.”

Trump has asserted repeatedly that he’s done more for Black Americans than any president other than Abraham Lincoln, who ended the institution of slavery.

“In 39 days we’re going to win four more years of the White House, and we will do it with a record number of votes from the Black community,” Trump said.

The White House has repeatedly pointed to the record low Black unemployment rate prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. In August 2019, the Black unemployment rate fell to a new low of 5.4 percent, but during the pandemic it has ballooned to 13 percent — higher than the national unemployment rate, which is around 8 percent.

In his speech, Trump promised that his second term would feature the creation of 3 million new jobs for the Black community and 500,000 new Black-owned businesses, as well as billions of dollars in increased access to capital.

Data has shown that Black and minority-owned businesses have been the hardest hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic and have received disproportionately less relief from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created by the CARES Act in March. Black Americans are also seeing a higher rate of coronavirus infections compared to white Americans. 

The promise of economic prosperity has been a pillar of Trump’s first term in office, and despite his sagging poll numbers, polls have consistently shown that Americans see him as a good steward of the country’s economy.

In a recent Economist/YouGov poll, 37 percent of respondents said the economy would become better if Trump was reelected, while 32 percent said that it would improve under Biden.

Some of the other proposals in Trump’s plan are at odds with his first four years in office. He vowed to create a national clemency project, though critics have argued that he has so far mostly given pardons and commutations to individuals with White House connections.

The president’s plan also refers to diversity training among police departments to improve community relations. In the last three weeks, Trump has directed federal agencies to stop administering racial sensitivity training or teaching critical race theory, and he announced the creation of a commission to foster “Patriotic Education” that would reject the idea that the U.S. is a historically racist nation.

Polling has consistently shown that voters do not trust Trump on issues related to race, a problem that has worsened for him as the nation has been roiled by months of protests in response to the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks.

An NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll released last week found 56 percent of likely voters prefer Biden to handle race relations, while 38 percent prefer Trump.

The president has stood firmly with law enforcement and rejected the premise that there is a problem with systemic racism in the United States. His handling of the protests are compounded by his history of incendiary comments, such as reportedly referring to African nations as “shithole countries,” his defense of far-right protesters in Charlottesville, Va., and his role in promoting the birther conspiracy theory about former President Obama.

Trump delivered Friday’s speech in the once reliably red state of Georgia, where two GOP-held Senate seats are on the ballot in November and polls show a tightening presidential race. A New York Times-Siena College survey released last week showed Trump tied with Biden, and a Monmouth University poll had the president up by 2 percentage points.

Tags 2020 2020 campaign 2020 election Atlanta Barack Obama Ben Carson Black voters Donald Trump Georgia Hillary Clinton Joe Biden systemic racism
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