He doesn’t really have to do much.
He does it by inviting the presidents of some of nation’s historically black colleges to gather in the Oval for a photo op, and watch them do it, because their schools are struggling or dying.
He does it by freeing the Johnsons — freeing the history of Jack and commuting the sentence of Alice.
Anyone who thinks that Trump didn’t gain some black votes by those actions last week doesn’t understand the power of connecting with the disconnected.
In Detroit, and other urban areas – where we can’t get more than 14% to 20% of registered voters to turn out for a municipal election — and where many people still love Kanye West (though he thinks slavery was a choice) or R. Kelly (who is avoiding jail by inexplicable means) — Trump may be resonating.
And now he’s considering pardoning Muhammad Ali, who doesn’t need his support, but that won’t stop Trump from claiming that he saved his reputation.
As I wrote yesterday, this isn’t dumb.
In any election there are five main classes of voters, listed here from the easiest to most difficult to win:
• Your devoted party loyalists.
• Your leaners.
• Their leaners.
• Their party loyalists.
Turnout matters greatly — that’s how you get your leaners to act like loyalists. But so do results and salesmanship, which, if successful move the undecideds into your column.
A booming economy and a popular leader can even suppress “enemy” leaner turnout, or even win a few over. This usually results in a blowout, like Reagan in 1984.
The most difficult voters to win are the other side’s loyalists. They’re also the most valuable, since stealing one of those is effectively winning two votes. The vote you won for yourself and the vote you took from the other guy. Sustained efforts at winning over party loyalists results in a landslide, obviously. But doing so may also result in that most elusive gain: Realignment.
If Trump can crack the black vote by 15% or more, then we might just witness a once-in-a-generation political realignment.
While it’s uncertain if it can be done, Trump would be stupid not to try. Black Americans were sorely disappointed by Barack Obama, and millions live in the Rust Belt states Trump is attempting to revitalize. That makes this the perfect moment to try, and whatever other flaws Trump may have, he’s not stupid.