Donald Trump meets with African-American business and civic leaders in Philadelphia, Sept. 2.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Donald Trump visited a black neighborhood in Philadelphia on Friday and a black church in Detroit on Saturday. And liberals went berserk. If he’d known Democrats were so fearful of GOP black outreach, perhaps Mr. Trump wouldn’t have waited until two months before Election Day to start campaigning in inner cities.
During a roundtable discussion with businessmen, elected officials and clergy in North Philadelphia, Mr. Trump listened to stories about violent crime and bad schools. Speaking before a congregation at the Great Faith Ministries church in Detroit, he referenced “all those closed stores” he saw while riding through the neighborhood “and people sitting down on the sidewalk, and no jobs, and no activity. We’ll get it turned around.” Mr. Trump said “nothing is more sad than when we sideline young black men with unfulfilled potential, tremendous potential,” and he added that safe communities and good schools would be a priority of his administration. He called for a new civil rights agenda that includes school choice.
For weeks, Mr. Trump has been criticized by Team Clinton and the political left for courting black voters while standing in front of white audiences. Now we know such criticism was disingenuous at best. A Clinton campaign official called Mr. Trump’s Philadelphia visit “an offensive gimmick.” At a weekend press conference organized by the Clinton campaign, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan referred to the Republican presidential candidate as “the most phony major party nominee that I have seen in my lifetime” and wondered aloud what Mr. Trump was even doing in his city. “Are you here just to use Detroiters as props in a re-imaging campaign?”
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus political-action committee, was asked whether Mr. Trump deserved “any credit at all” for campaigning in the inner city. “It’s not real,” said Mr. Meeks, adding that the GOP nominee has “racist tendencies” and is trying to “con African-Americans.” The congressman called for “the types of policies that are being talked about by Hillary Clinton” and cited “raising the minimum wage” and “investing in historically black colleges.” Alas, it’s Mr. Meeks and his fellow Democrats who should get real.
Unions support minimum-wage hikes because they help limit competition from workers who might accept lower wages and threaten union jobs. And Congressional Black Caucus members support them in return for handsome campaign contributions from Big Labor. However, economists generally agree that minimum-wage mandates disproportionately harm the employment prospects of younger and less-skilled workers, many of whom are black. A 2011 study for the Employment Policies Institute by William Even and David Macpherson found that minimum wage hikes implemented between 2007 and 2010 cost young black men more jobs than the Great Recession did.
If Mr. Meeks is serious about addressing the immediate education needs of black families, calling for additional funding for historically black colleges is an odd place to start. Some of these colleges do a fine job of educating blacks, particularly in the fields of math and science, but the reality is that some 90% of black students don’t attend them. And given that the typical black 12th-grader is several grade levels behind his white counterpart in reading and math, is the bigger problem the underfinancing of black colleges or a K-12 public education system that is producing so few college-ready blacks?
Hillary Clinton and her campaign surrogates can brag about giving black communities far more face-time than the GOP, but they can’t brag about the results of liberal policies. Democrats are calling Mr. Trump names because they can’t defend their track record. Homicides in Philadelphia rose last year and are up 6% this year. In 2015, Detroit students scored the lowest among big-city school districts on national math and reading tests.
Minority children with access to school vouchers and charter schools are narrowing the achievement gap, while Democrats and teachers unions are working hand in glove to limit school choice. Mrs. Clinton has adopted the provably false union line that charters get better academic outcomes by accepting only the most motivated students. And the new Democratic platform drafted in July proclaims support for “high-quality public charter schools,” so long as they don’t “replace or destabilize” traditional public schools. In other words, the party supports charter schools so long as no one attends them.
Mr. Trump has been polling in the low single digits among blacks, and his current black outreach is probably too little, too late if the goal is to win significant black support. But Democrats aren’t very concerned about the percentage of blacks who support the Republican. Their bigger worry is the level of overall black turnout. The political left is furious at Mr. Trump for campaigning on their turf because he could soften support for Mrs. Clinton. They are terrified that too many of the black voters who turned out forBarack Obama in 2008 and 2012 may decide to stay home.
-- Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).