Donald Trump claimed to have done so much for African Americans that his campaign decided to open the first Republican office ever in a black neighborhood in Milwaukee.
The office of the Martin Luther King unit was decorated with “Black Voters for Trump”
Not long after, the coronavirus pandemic closed the campaign. Now the office is up and running, but in a completely different landscape than what was in February. Covid-19 has shattered the illusion that Trump could get significant numbers of African-American votes following his hostility to the Black Lives Matters movement in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. Trump’s misapprehension of the pandemic – which has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color – has also been a factor.
Outside his apartment, one block from the Trump campaign office, Cleophus Lobley acknowledged that he helped elect the 2016 president by not voting. The African American truck driver said that the events of recent months mean he will not make that mistake again.
“Damn right, I’m not happy with Trump. To me, he really is a very damned person. He has been bad for the black community, ”he said. “I’m not just talking about Covid and George Floyd, but it made things worse. That’s the kind of president he is. I decided to vote this time because of him. Maybe my vote counts. I don’t know anyone here who will vote for him. “
Lobley was among 40,000 people in Milwaukee who voted for Barack Obama but failed to appear for Hillary Clinton in 2016, including a significant proportion of black neighborhoods. Their absence was more than enough to give victory to Trump in Wisconsin. He won the state by just 23,000 votes – a margin of victory of 0.77% – giving him an important part of the college’s puzzle that put him into the White House.
If he is to remain in power, the president must almost certainly repeat that victory while winning Michigan and Pennsylvania, two other states he took by small margins.
Wisconsin Republicans suffered severe setbacks with the loss of the governor’s office in 2018, and in April they lost a key seat to the state Supreme Court in April along with a failed attempt to purge the ballot of 200,000 before the presidential election.
The extent of Jill Karofsky’s victory in the Supreme Court over the course of a sitting justice strongly supported by Trump, and the fact of a high turnout despite long lines because so many polling stations were closed by coronavirus, gave Democrats the hope that their supporters are more engaged in politics than four years ago. This would be bad news for the president.
“He has a tougher road here than in March”
A poll of Wisconsin voters at Marquette Law School in Milwaukee gave Democratic candidate Joe Biden, an eight-point lead over the president in June, a five-point increase from a month earlier.
The investigation showed rising discontent in the state for Trump’s job performance linked to his handling of the corona virus but also the Black Lives Matter protests. More than half said Trump was wrong in handling Covid-19. Only 30% of voters approved their response to the murder of George Floyd and the demands for police reform.
Even on his strongest issue, the economy, the president’s approval value fell four points to 50%.
Crucially, the opposition has grown among independents who helped deliver Wisconsin to him four years ago. Accident with Trump’s leadership among independent voters in the state rose from 36% to 57% between May and June.
Charles Franklin, head of the Marquette poll, said “the intense negativity” is to the advantage of Democrats if it motivates people to vote.
“Trump is in trouble. He has a tougher road here, a much tougher road than he encountered back in March when it looked like a very tough race. There seem to be cracks in the almost unanimous Republican support and loss of independent support,” he said.
It is a picture found on trips across Wisconsin over the past week, from its largest cities to rural areas in the north of the state where Trump did so well four years ago. Republican activists there are increasingly worried about eradicating support for the president and what they see as his lack of a coherent strategy or policy to regain it, especially on important issues like health care that have received an extra resonance in the middle of the pandemic.
Some county party presidents are privately wondering if Trump has already given up hope of re-election, as they say he continues to reiterate the divisive behavior that has hurt his presidency and taken highly controversial measures such as commuting Roger Stein’s prison.
Franklin said he had been particularly surprised by the president’s low vote on Black Lives Matters.
“To the extent that President Trump’s response to the protest is seen as opposing the valid reasons for the protests, Trump is on the wrong side of public opinion here in Wisconsin, too, with our 80 percent of the white population,” he said. “The issue of race and confederate statues and patriotism that he sees doesn’t play a strong color for him right now.”
“There is no such thing as democratic socialism. It’s the same as democratic Auschwitz ‘
It was not immediately apparent at the Wisconsin Republican congress in Green Bay on Saturday where party leaders largely considered the mention of coronavirus, other than calling it a “communist China exported plague,” in favor of an attack on Black Lives Matters that marked the ground party want to fight the election on.
“We’ve seen violent people go out into the streets to erase our history,” Congressman Mike Gallagher, who represents a Wisconsin district, told the conference.
Katrina Pierson, former Trump spokesman 2016 and campaign advisor for this year’s campaign, said that as a black woman, she thought it was important for Republicans to remind voters about African Americans that it was their party under Lincoln that freed those who were enslaved.
“When black Americans wake up, it’s game over,” she said to shabby applause.
In an effort to awaken the awakening, the party is pushing the widely-held claim that “no one has ever done more” to African Americans than Trump to create jobs for minorities, criminal justice reform and fight poverty. But Piersen undermined his own case with languages that ensured a large number of black voters.
“The Black Voices for Trump coalition will take on Black Lives Matter. We have the candidate who has the policy that proves that black lives matter because he believes that all lives matter, she said.
One Soviet defender, Yuri Maltsev, broadened the attack on Democrats by warning of the dangers of democratic socialism. The Republican Party, he said, is all that stands between freedom and communist “slavery.”
“There is no such thing as democratic socialism. It’s the same as Democratic Auschwitz, “he told some gasps.
The Wisconsin Republican Party was one of the few that went ahead with a personal convention this year. Few of the most senior delegates wear masks in a reflection of how widely their use is now seen as a political statement in parts of the country.
Among the delegates to the conference there was no great confidence in a strategy to attack Black Lives Matters and paint the Democrats as Stalinists.
Vicky Ostrey, who represents Germantown on the outskirts of Milwaukee, is not sure Trump will win.
“I think it’s going to be a tough reelection,” she said, reflecting a view commonly heard by Republican activists, especially in rural Wisconsin, where Trump must win big again to offset a sharp increase in motivated Democratic voters in cities.
The threat to Trump’s grip on the White House comes not only from a resurgence in the Democratic vote but the loss of independent and moderate Republican support in Wisconsin. It has been disappearing as the president has alienated former voters with his attacks on the military, the justice system and broader democratic norms.
Democrats are still losing out in Waukesha County west of Milwaukee, one of three solidly Republican counties around Milwaukee that is seen as an important test of Trump’s ability to hold on to the support of wealthy college-educated voters. But Democratic candidates have taken an increasing share of the vote in recent elections for the US Senate, the governor and the state Supreme Court.
Matt Lowe, the 29-year-old chairman of Waukesha’s Democrats, attributes this in part to Republican voters leaving Trump, but also to shifting the priorities of Democrats who aren’t enthusiastic about Biden.
“I think many younger, more progressive voters see this as a referendum on Trump’s entire presidency, not just the coronavirus,” he said. “I’m a millennial who is also straight, white, cis, living in a fluid community. I know that if Donald Trump is elected for another four years, I will probably be OK as an individual. But I know that my LGBT friends, my friends in color, the friends who are less likely to be as safe in a Trump America, they will not be OK. For many younger voters who may be more idealistic, radical, they see that this is more than their ideology. It is about protecting those who need them as allies to vote to protect them. It is a motivation to vote. “
There are still four months to the election in a year where the events have gone fast.
Franklin said the president could win back support if the economy improves during the summer, but warned that Trump’s efforts to reopen schools and universities will hurt him again if it resulted in an increase in coronavirus cases at the end of the election.
There is also the question of how the pandemic will affect the vote, especially if many polling stations are closed in the big cities as for the April elections, causing long lines. But some voters waited for hours to cast their vote, reflecting an apparent determination to oppose Trump. More than 60% voted by mail, an option that is likely to be considered for the presidential election.
No matter what it takes, Lobley is determined to be heard this time around, although he is not very enthusiastic about Joe Biden.
“Biden talks well but he tries to get the majority of black people on his side to get the votes. I know what he’s doing, he said. “But the important thing is to get rid of this president.”