President Trump needs to hit the streets with an ambitious civil rights act based on the following principles: School choice is a civil right. A college education is a civil right. And a good job is a civil right.
With a little more than 500 days remaining before the next presidential election, President Trump finds himself in an opportune, though not entirely firm position. While Trump’s approval has recently reached a new high, that high is only 46%, and he remains the only president Gallup has ever tracked (dating back through Truman) who has never been at 50% at all (though Gerald Ford was close).
Meanwhile, polls repeatedly show the stronger of his Democratic challengers with modest leads in hypothetical head-to-head matchups: Biden is +7, Bernie is +3, Beto is +6, and Booker is +4.5. Second-tier candidates Buttigieg, Harris, and Warren, draw roughly even. And all of them will benefit from a lot of free and fawning press over the next year or so, as their primary process plays out. This will not only improve their exposure and fundraising, while polluting the airwaves with non-stop vitriol slung at President Trump, it will also give a lot of voice to bad ideas that need a strong rebuke, and viable alternatives.
Trump must take these challengers seriously and campaign as though he is behind, which, he arguably is. That means finding voters from outside of the Republican Party, from which he already draws a 90% approval rating, meaning there are not many more votes to mine from that group.
Trump is at his best when he campaigns, but to reach new voters, he needs something beyond himself for which to campaign, especially considering that he will not have any real primary challenger with whom to spar. He needs a bold stroke to grab headlines, and move the needle, and put non-traditional Republican voters on notice that he means business. It has to be, in an eponymous word, Trumpian: big, audacious, and impossible to ignore. And that means he should stop going to pep rallies for his monochromatic base, and start going into Democratic cities, campaigning not for reelection, but for a new Civil Rights Act of 2020.
Make that the election. Democrats expect 2020 to be a single-issue election, and they expect that issue to be Donald Trump himself. But if Trump advances a historic civil rights act, and really makes it his own, then attacking Trump would be attacking civil rights itself.
And “historic” is the right word. We haven’t had a civil rights act of note since the heyday of the movement, in 1968, and yet there is much more to be done. That’s the sort of messaging, and imagery we need to evoke. Announce it in front of the Martin Luther King Memorial, surrounded with leaders from the black community. Yes, there will be reflexive criticism from the (mostly white liberal) Left, who will complain hysterically about the optics and co-opting of King’s legacy. So what? Trump’s message needs to be that he will judge his presidency by the extent to which he can complete the work that King started. And there is every indication that African-Americans are ready to support President Trump — heck, anybody! — in greater, meaningful numbers, if he shows his support for them. There is no better way to do that than to become the Civil Rights President of this generation.
Current polls show Trump’s popularity increasing with African-Americans, who give him now an 18% approval rating, compared to the 8% of the black vote he received in the 2016 election. In raw numbers, Trump received 1.3 million African-American votes out of 16.4 million cast in 2016, which accounted for 12% of the vote. If Trump receives 18% of the black vote in 2020 (assuming the same turnout) he’d not only win an extra 1.6 million votes, his Democrat opponent would also lose that amount, meaning it would have a net effect of 3.2 million votes in favor of Trump. Considering that Trump won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by nearly two million votes, a swing of this magnitude would all but ensure his reelection.
So Trump needs to lock in those voters already supporting him, and push forward to make even more substantial gains. The Democrats plan to play offense during the primary season. Put them on the defensive. African-Americans are tired of being taken for granted by Democrats. And while Trump has done a lot to help the economy in general, and certainly African-Americans have benefitted, they need to hear the President speak to them directly. According to the NAACP, eighty-five percent of black women and 81 percent of black men have felt disrespected by President Trump, with roughly the same number believe his statements will cause a major setback for racial progress, and is using toxic rhetoric to divide the nation. They need to feel respect, and that means prioritizing them, and campaigning to them specifically.
Trump is, in an odd way, uniquely qualified for this task. Trump’s greatest skill as a campaigner is playing the role of bully on behalf of those who feel bullied, and no group of people have been more bullied than African-Americans, whose staunch loyalty to the Democratic Party has gone unrewarded with any meaningful progress in the last half-century. Their schools continue to fail, their cities continue to be unsafe, and jobs are harder to come by for them than any other group. So to cut into the black vote even deeper, and start talking about maybe even winning it (why not?), Trump’s Civil Rights Act of 2020 needs to be ambitious, and based around these three central principles and talking points:
1. School Choice is a Civil Right
In every city run by Democrats, black children continue to be warehoused in failing public schools, with high dropout and low achievement rates, that serve as little more than pipelines to minimum wage jobs, welfare, and too often, jail. Yet, these schools often cost much more than private and charter schools in which these same children are shown to succeed, but which Democrats keep them out of because they’ve sold out these kids out to the teacher’s unions. Instead of rewarding failing public schools with more money, we need to put the money into the hands of parents in failing school districts to let them choose which school to send their child to. No longer should the neighborhood that a child is born into, or the family he is born into, or the economic situation that he is born into, determine whether or not he has the opportunity to succeed.
In addition to rescuing those children from awful schools immediately, the increased competition from school choice will cause failing schools to either improve, or close their doors permanently. And with parents newly empowered as monied consumers, specialized schools for specific needs and specific fields will begin to appear, in order to service children with different skills and ambitions. Imagine, in impoverished neighborhoods, specialized high schools tailored specifically for entrepreneurship, or business, or pre-law and pre-med students, to name a few. You give kids a future by getting them to work on it today, and when they have a future, they’re not so quick to throw it away.
Plus, this plan should be revenue neutral, since the federal government would only be requiring that states simply reallocate existing money that’s already being wasted on the terrible schools.
And the message has to be clear: Education is power, and Donald Trump is on the side of empowering black parents and black children, whereas Democrats are on the side of corrupt special interests who want all the power to themselves.
2. A College Education is a Civil Right
Of course, a high school education is rather meaningless without the ability to attend college for those students who excel in academic fields. In today’s economy, it’s almost a prerequisite for any white-collar job. The Democrats have taken up the mantle on sending everyone to college, and Trump needs to steal this issue. But rather than simply declaring all college free, which is cost prohibitive since it places the burden on taxpayers already $20 trillion in debt, the solution is to require that all colleges and universities accepting federal financial aid limit their tuition to no more than that of local community colleges, at least for students from traditionally underrepresented, high-risk areas.
For example, in Middlesex County, New Jersey, where tuition at the local community college is $110 per credit hour (which works out to about $3300 per year), Rutgers University, located in the same county, would no longer be allowed to charge $383 per credit if it wanted to continue to accept federal aid and grants, which it is entirely dependent on. And if they, or any other college refuses, not only will they be ineligible for federal money, then it’s time to start talking about taxing their endowments in order to pay off student debt, and revoking their nonprofit status. If that means the schools can’t have an army of administrators with six-figure salaries, and mid-level deans making $675,000 plus bonuses and chauffeur, and university presidents making over a million dollars, and all these opulent, state-of-the-art buildings like they’re trying to replicate Apple’s corporate campus, then that’s what it means. These colleges and universities have nonprofit status so that they can provide quality educations at a reasonable cost, not so that they can engage in price gouging against poor children. The entire point of college is for kids to have a better future, not for all these administrators and millionaire deans to live high off of the future earnings of these kids.
Donald Trump is on the side of black children who dream of going to college. Democrats are on the side of millionaire university administrators who are extorting poor children.
3. A Good Job is a Civil Right
We need to stop talking about raising the minimum wage, and start talking about raising people out of the minimum wage. Making minimum wage, and welfare, slightly less uncomfortable is not the goal. Elevating people to a life of comfort is the goal.
Many black Americans are already past the point of going to school, and need new and better jobs today. Part of the solution would be to reallocate some of our existing welfare money to subsidize new hires. This would make the cost of doing business in America, and the cost of hiring Americans, more competitive on a global scale, and would reanimate our manufacturing sector with fewer collateral costs than tariffs. In other words, when somebody moves from welfare to a job, the business should get part of that money to subsidize that hire as an incentive to hire that person, at least on a temporary basis, as that business is now saving the taxpayers money, and adding another person to the tax base who is going to pay taxes on his income. This, incidentally, would be especially helpful in securing employment for those with minor criminal histories, who might otherwise be overlooked. Again, this adds no new cost because we’re just reallocating existing money.
The president should also propose targeted economic opportunity zones for impoverished cities, where businesses and corporations can enjoy a 0% business tax doing business and hiring in those cities, and new job training programs designed for the tech age, so anyone who wants to work for it can have an opportunity to move out of poverty, and into the middle class, because Donald Trump wants to Make America Great for Black Americans, and Hispanic Americans, and for all Americans.
And by addressing these core issues, other problems are going to solve themselves. When we give kids a future, they are much less likely to drop out of school, to become pregnant at a young age, to get into drugs, and to commit crimes. They are also much more likely to become married, and wait until they’re married to have children, and for that marriage to remain intact. And when that happens, everyone wins.
It’s not enough to say “we love black people” once every four years during a national convention speech that is probably not watched all that much outside of Republican homes anyway. It’s time – really, well past time – to actually do something for this group of Americans that has been more than patient than any other. And we need an answer for the invidious calls for reparations and socialism that will dominate the next year and a half.
So please, President Trump, propose a Civil Right Act, put your stamp on it, and go fight for it. Nobody fights better than you for the American people. Go into the cities, bring a bullhorn and a bunch of red hats, and bring your message directly to these people: the Democrats offer more handouts because they don’t expect you to make it on your own. But we offer opportunities, because we know you will make it on your own if given a fair chance. Democrats offer you the scraps from their table. We want you to take your rightful place at our table. And while it was the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves, so it will be the Republican Party of Donald Trump that frees African-Americans from the slavery of poverty, the slavery of bad schools, the slavery of joblessness and low wages, the slavery of broken families and unsafe streets, the slavery of a corrupt system that keeps you from your right to the American dream, so help us God.
You’ve waited long enough. The wait is over.