As President Donald Trump trails Joe Biden by a huge margin among Black voters, several speakers at the Republican National Convention tried on Monday to defend Trump’s record on race, portray Black voters as free thinkers not beholden to the Democratic Party, and criticize Joe Biden for race-related gaffes.
“Growing up in the Deep South, I’ve seen racism up close, I know what it is, and it isn’t Donald Trump,” said Herschel Walker, the former NFL player, who said he has known the president for 37 years, when the then-business mogul bought the New Jersey Generals pro football team.
Walker said that Trump cares about social justice, and “keeps right on fighting to improve the lives of Black Americans.”
Several politicians, including a Democrat, also vouched for the president and maintained that his support was growing among Black Americans.
“The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation,” said Vernon Jones, a Democratic politician from Georgia, currently a member of the state House of Representatives.
He said that Black people have been “forced” to be part of the party for decades.
“I have news for Joe Biden: We are free, we are free people with free minds, and I’m part of a large and growing segment of the Black community who are independent thinkers, and we believe that Donald Trump is the president that America needs to lead us forward,” said Jones, the only Georgian speaking at the convention this week.
Biden has a massive lead among Black voters, with recent polls averaging a 75-point margin.
But he has made several gaffes and generalizations that Republicans have seized on, as Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) did in closing out the convention on Monday.
“Joe Biden said if a Black man didn‘t vote for him, he wasn’t truly Black. Joe Biden said Black people are a monolithic community. It was Joe Biden who said poor kids can be just as smart as white kids,“ Scott said, before pointing to Biden‘s leading role in crafting the 1994 crime bill, which contributed to mass incarceration.
Trump, meanwhile, “signed into law historically high funding for [historically Black colleges and universities], as well as a bill to give them permanent funding for the first time ever,“ Scott said.
Nikki Haley, a fellow South Carolinian who served as governor and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also challenged Democrats‘ views on race.
“In much of the Democratic Party, it‘s now fashionable to say that America is racist,” she said. “That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
“The American people know we can do better. And of course we value and respect every Black life.“
Kim Klacik, who is running for the Congress in the Baltimore district long held by civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings, sounded a similar note, saying that the “days of blindly supporting Democrats are coming to an end.”
She condemned how Democrats have led Baltimore (a frequent target of President Trump) and bashed Biden.
“Joe Biden believes we can’t think for ourselves, that the color of someone’s skin dictates their political views,” Klacik said.
Earlier this week, audio unearthed by POLITICO revealed Trump acknowledging that lower turnout among Black voters benefited him in the 2016 election.
“Many Blacks didn’t go out to vote for Hillary ’cause they liked me,” he told a room of civil rights leaders. “That was almost as good as getting the vote, you know, and it was great.”
Biden has repeatedly cast Trump as a uniquely divisive president and called him the first racist sitting president.