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A Political Shift In Cleveland

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Cleveland is prepping for tonight’s debate the way any city might during a long summer of discontent – with some expectation political divisiveness might turn into chaos or property damage and readying for that scenario.


But Cleveland is also preparing in ways that don’t involve boarding up storefronts and offices. Colin Jackson, Director of Minority Engagement for the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County, spoke Monday directly to those who might be frustrated by a political system that he said left them unable to hold long-time politicians accountable.

“My purpose here is to let you all know that there are options here,” Jackson said in a video posted to Facebook Monday night and that had received thousands of views by Tuesday. “Not only nationally, but locally.”

Jackson detailed a litany of ways in which the Democrat agenda (the city has had a Democrat mayor since 1990) had failed Clevelanders including a “ridiculous murder rate, these schools that are failing our children, and a community that is not allowing our elderly to walk the streets anymore.”

“This is the legacy of Democrats in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County,” Jackson said.

Jackson is leveraging a moment in the political make-up of the country where young black voters are increasingly skeptical of the Democrat party of their parents and grandparents.

According to FiveThirtyEight, young black voters are skewing toward Trump and the GOP at a noticeable clip.

Among white likely voters, Biden’s best margins are with the youngest cohort (those 18 to 29 years old). But among Black likely voters, Biden’s biggest margins are among older cohorts.

The polling by both HIT [Strategies] and [The African American Research Collaborative] in particular tell a fairly clear story: Older Black people are more clearly partisan Democrats than younger Black people, both viewing the Democratic Party and its leaders much more favorably than younger Black people and viewing the GOP with more disdain than younger Black people. Among Black registered voters age 50 and older, 75 percent said they thought congressional Democrats were doing a good job, compared to just 22 percent who thought congressional Democrats were doing a poor job, according to a HIT survey conducted in June. But among Black voters under age 50, only about half (54 percent) approved of congressional Democrats, while 36 percent disapproved. Black voters under 50 (57 percent) were more likely than those 50 and over (40 percent) to agree with the statement, “The Democratic Party takes Black people for granted,” according to HIT polling. 


President Trump is given much of the credit for this shift, and he deserves some of it. His support of historically black colleges & universities (HBCUs) through the FUTURE Act – which in part gave those schools $255 million in secure funding – and the recent introduction of a $500 billion pledge as part of the Platinum Plan, meant specifically to uplift and support black Americans, cannot be ignored.

But Jackson’s speech in Cleveland – in which he pointed out that much of politics in black neighborhoods has been little more than a “dog and pony show” to try to win minority support – speaks more to a monumental shift in the body politic. As black Americans and other communities of color begin to embrace policies at a local level, they’re seeking the things everyone wants: safe neighborhoods, proper funding for government services, a thriving economy, and healthy and educated children.

To that end, after Trump leaves office – be it in 2021 or four years from now – black and Latino Americans will have had more time to consider free market policies and a Republican agenda and embrace, as Jackson said Monday, policies that “can truly change our systems.”

Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.

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