In late September, President Trump announced his plan to “deliver more opportunity, more security, more fairness, and more prosperity to black communities.” But that plan, coined the “Platinum Plan,” amounts to a bribe and a betrayal with a $500 billion price tag.
In a kind of mass affirmative action, it sets for itself the goal of 500,000 new black-owned businesses and three million new jobs in African American communities. It also comes with the promise of more criminal justice reform, the “Second Step Act,” to follow in the footsteps of the “First Step Act,” which, unfortunately for some, cost them their lives. Such is the price of progress.
The plan also intends to designate Antifa and the Ku Klux Klan as terrorist organizations. Trump promised to designate the former as such already but never did. But the latter, frankly, is absurd. The KKK is not to blame for the citywide conflagration of violence that consumed Minneapolis recently or for what has followed in recent months. To imply, as this does, that the violence sweeping the country is coming from anyone but left-wing agitators is utterly untrue. Further, it gives the impression, as a concession to the Left, that the KKK is somehow “our” collection of bad guys. As if the KKK is the right-wing equivalent of Antifa or BLM rioters. It is not.
As even Allison Padilla-Goodman, director of the South-Central region of the Anti-Defamation League, admits: “What remains of the Klan is a collection of mostly small and disjointed groups that have difficulty in recruiting members and even maintaining any semblance of long-term stability.”
Most Klan chapters are considerably smaller than 50 to 200 members. In other words, the Klan has no cultural purchase. It is a pariah. The Klan does not enjoy the mainstream support of cultural, government, and economic institutions as Black Lives Matter does—and yet here that name is noticeably absent.
No other organization bears more blame for the months of mayhem, murder, and madness into which American cities have plunged and will continue to plunge every time agitators feel the least bit irritated. The Platinum Plan, then, is pandering to the point of capitulation and the worst kind of “spoils system” offered this side of the Democratic Party.
“There are two ways to become richer,” Robert J. Samuelson wrote. “One is to provide more goods and services; that’s economic growth. The other is to snatch someone else’s wealth or income; that’s the spoils society.” Samuelson concludes: “In a spoils society, economic success increasingly depends on who wins countless distributional contests—not who creates wealth but who controls it. This can be contentious. Winners celebrate; losers fume.” He’s right.
I live in a part of Ohio where the poverty level is higher than the state average. Most of my neighbors are white, with a few blacks, and I am brown. What does the Platinum Plan do for my 96 percent white town? More than any other demographic, Trump needs white non-college-educated voters to win. He won with their help in 2016, and without their help he will lose in 2020.
Recent Rasmussen polling shows Biden leading Trump with white voters 49 percent to 45 percent, up from 46 percent to 45 percent. According to more than 300,000 voters polled between July 2019 and July 2020, “the president’s vote margin among whites without university degrees has fallen by half since 2016, from 27 percentage points to just 13.” Commenting on the survey, The Economist wonders if perhaps these voters, whom political scientists are disposed to deem the most “racist,” are not becoming less “racist” thanks to movements like Black Lives Matter, and therefore are abandoning Trump, the arch-“racist.” But that doesn’t make sense, because support among whites for Black Lives Matter has steadily fallen, too.
In Wisconsin, a Marquette University Law School poll in mid-June showed residents supported Black Lives Matter by a 61 percent to 38 percent margin. By August, those numbers evened out to 48-48. The reason, as the Washington Post notes, “White Wisconsinites. There was almost no shift among racial minorities, but Whites in the poll moved from 21 points in favor of the movement (59-38) to six points against (45-51).”
In late July, a Yahoo/YouGov poll showed support for Black Lives Matter at 47 percent positive and 48 percent negative overall. Among whites, 41 percent to 51 percent. By mid-September, the Pew Research Center reported a similar trend. “The recent decline in support for the Black Lives Matter movement is particularly notable among White and Hispanic adults,” which also confirms my other thesis, that there is tension between BLM and Latinos. “In June, a majority of White adults (60%) said they supported the movement at least somewhat; now, fewer than half (45%) express at least some support.”
Pew concludes: “The share of Hispanic adults who support the movement has decreased 11 percentage points, from 77% in June to 66% today.”
Falling support for BLM among whites has not translated into increasing support for Trump. In Wisconsin, where BLM support among whites is down, and where he won non-college-educated white women by 16 percentage points four years ago, Trump is now losing them by 9 percentage points, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. In Pennsylvania, 48 percent of non-college-educated whites overall, 56 percent of men and 41 percent of women, oppose BLM. Nevertheless, Biden is running even with Trump among white voters there, according to an NBC News/Marist Poll.
It’s more likely that these voters feel abandoned by an administration that promised them everyman policies but has instead been content to pander to, and has actually been extremely friendly toward, corporations, many of which bankroll movements like BLM and feed on the neoliberal policies that hollowed out Middle America.
In 2016, Stephanie Mencimer notes, in counties where white people were dying the fastest, Trump performed best in the GOP primary. And yet, she writes, “President Trump and the GOP-controlled Senate have single-mindedly pursued policies that will harm white working-class voters, through cuts in social welfare programs like food stamps and Medicaid and by allowing huge corporate mergers.”
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reports in retrospect that the Trump-GOP tax law enacted in December 2017 actually incentivized American-based corporations to move operations and jobs abroad, including a zero percent tax rate on many profits generated offshore. Nearly 1,800 factories between 2016 and 2018 and 740,000 manufacturing jobs since February 2020 have vanished overseas.
Trump embraced the GOP orthodoxy he ran against when he signed an executive memorandum to defer the collection of the payroll taxes that workers pay to help fund Social Security. The logic appeared simple: eliminating it would save companies money while increasing the take-home pay of American workers.
But it only seemed simple. “One, there are tens of millions of Americans who aren’t working, thanks to the economic collapse brought on by the pandemic,” writes Paul Brandus. “Bigger take-home pay? They don’t even have jobs.”
Regardless of how effectively the order has been implemented, the signal it sends to the 20 million to 30 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits right now, as a result of pandemic panic policies both parties embraced, is not a popular one.
David Siders writes, “white voters have not proved immune to the damage inflicted on Trump by the coronavirus and its resulting economic wreckage, which have been a drag on Trump’s reelection campaign since spring.” He’s right. “In particular, the pandemic appears to have hurt Trump with seniors, including older white voters concerned about both their retirement accounts and their health.”
Though Trump and the GOP have time to condemn their Proud Boys and quirky QAnon supporters, they can’t find the time to ensure direct aid for people subjected to the flawed pandemic policies both parties endorsed. This, far more than tax cuts, anti-socialism talking points, or portraying the Democrats as “the real racists” would help Trump rally the white support he needs to win.
The thing about the issues that appeal to these white voters? They are broadly popular. This, not “Platinum Plan” pandering and grievance spoils, is the winning political formula, whether Trump effectively prosecutes it or not.