Courting black voters for his 2020 reelection campaign, President Donald Trump is poised to stir cries of both admiration and protest during a trip to Atlanta Friday to launch his new “Black Voices for Trump” coalition.
The Georgia World Congress Center event aims to energize black conservative supporters anxious to hear what the president will say about job creation and declining unemployment rates. His visit is prompting a protest by the NAACP and others in Centennial Olympic Park.
The president is set to fly into Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta Friday morning, then attend a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. David Perdue in Buckhead before heading downtown for the coalition event in the afternoon.
Protest organizers say the president’s visit to Atlanta is a distraction meant to exploit the city’s cultural and historical symbolism as the seat of the Civil Rights Movement, not as a welcoming gesture to engage black Georgians.
“He can’t logically expect that he’s going to get support from people who actually live here,” said Richard Rose, the president of the NAACP’s Atlanta chapter. “But for those who do, I’m hopeful that those who have forgotten who they are and the situation in America will find their way again.”
Trump’s local black supporters say his visit is a political necessity. Friday’s event gives Trump a chance to outline his agenda for jobs and economic opportunity for black Georgians overall and especially for black women, said GOP political strategist Leo Smith. Black women are a critical voting bloc to win over to improve the president’s reelection chances.
Smith said Thursday that he’s eager for the president to make a strong showing in Atlanta.
“The launch of this coalition obviously is critical for his 2020 campaign hopes,” said Smith, a Smyrna resident and a former minority engagement director for the Georgia Republican Party. “I would recommend to anybody to take advantage of these opportunities to engage with candidates including the president to ask, what is the agenda that will most empower and uplift black Americans?”
Trump enjoys strong support from several influential black residents like Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., and businessman Bruce LeVell. But his call for congresswomen of color to “go back” where they came from and other charged comments have drawn accusations of racism and at times angered black community leaders. That’s especially true in Georgia’s capital city after the president described U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s Atlanta district as “failing” and “crime-infested” in 2017 after the civil rights icon called him an illegitimate president.
That episode and similar ones in Trump’s presidency make it unlikely he will sway many new black voters, said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University specializing in black politics. Black voters in Atlanta and Georgia typically lean toward Democratic candidates, she said. Prominent city and state Democratic officials pushing get-out-the-vote efforts in next year’s election are an additional headwind working against Trump’s bid to woo Georgia’s black voters.
“President Trump hasn’t made the strides necessary to reverse that trend,” Gillespie said Thursday. “Even if the needle moves a little, it doesn’t change the narrative that blacks here are an overwhelmingly Democratic voting bloc.”
Democratic Party of Georgia leaders also plan to speak out against the Trump visit at a news conference at the Georgia Capitol scheduled for early Friday morning. Several black state lawmakers, including party chair Sen. Nikema Williams, plan to attend.
During Trump’s afternoon visit to downtown Atlanta, the NAACP and the nonprofit Georgia Alliance for Social Justice plan to walk from Centennial Park across the street to the convention center entrance, although organizers did not secure a required permit from the state run authority to do that, said Janel Green, the nonprofit’s executive director.