Reports that Donald Trump has made surprising gains among Black voters have raised understandable alarm among my Democratic-leaning friends.

And it’s small wonder. Despite anecdotal reports that Trump had made some inroads with Blacks in 2020, he won just 8% of the Black vote, according to Pew Research Center. That was the same share he won in 2016 against Hillary Clinton.

So it’s quite something that polls show more than 20% of Black voters saying they will vote for Trump in 2024 in his rematch with President Joe Biden in states likely to determine who wins. The New York Times/Siena poll back in early November had Trump with 21% Black support while Biden was the choice of 71% in six key battleground states. In early March, Trump’s total rose to 23% while Biden’s fell to 66% in those states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Democrats reached out to Black voters in the current election by moving up South Carolina’s primary, a recognition of that state’s Black voters in playing a crucial role in handing Biden the Democratic nomination in 2020. The gesture apparently isn’t having much effect, at least if polls are to be believed.

Let’s be clear. It’s early. And voters are just starting to engage. They’ll focus far more in late summer and early fall on a presidential choice many have said they’re unhappy to have been handed.

But it’s worth considering why this substantial number of Black voters at this early stage would even be open to Trump.


After all, we’re talking about a man who from his earliest days as a New York real estate developer was accused of racist business practices. The federal government successfully sued him in the 1970s for discriminating against Black apartment seekers. In the early 1990s, Black pastors accused him of stirring racial animus surrounding the “Central Park Five” rape case, for which all the suspects were later exonerated — except by Trump, who would not allow the confessions of another man get in the way of his unfounded accusations.

Most notoriously, he became a leading promoter of the “birther” conspiracy theory, which questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

But all that and other controversies have not much dimmed sentiments like those of several young Black men MSNBC interviewed in a Charleston, South Carolina, barbershop in early February.

Anecdotally, this seems to be more of a male phenomenon. Black women tend to turn out in greater percentages for Democrats than any other major demographic. So what explains Trump’s appeal to Black men, in particular? One of the young men said, quite simply, “Money.” Trump has built a reputation of being “the money man,” the young voter said.

More recently, I’ve heard similar responses from my own son — which is a far cry from the neo-socialist attitudes that caught his fancy when he was a collegiate volunteer in Obama’s 2008 presidential run.

Now 34 and entering the business world as co-owner of a comic book store in Maryland, he’s starting to sound more like, yes, a Republican, although fortunately minus the MAGA movement’s crackpot conspiracy theories — except when he wants to annoy his parents, which still seems to be his favorite pastime outside of making money.

Ah, well, I tell myself, he’s a grown man who has to learn some lessons for himself. There’s a lesson here for any of us who expect the new, rising generation to automatically embrace their parents’ attitudes without their parents’ experiences.

Talking to young Black voters, I hear a lot of questions as they try to understand why Biden and other traditional politicians have not done more for Black people, as well as others from here to the Middle East and beyond, even as I ask myself, “Why hasn’t Biden done more to make this case for himself?”

Sure, he’s a busy man — and his State of the Union speech offered a taste of the messages his campaign is beginning to make. He owes that to the voters who want to make an intelligent and informed choice even though, unlike me, they don’t have the luxury of following politics for a living.

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