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How race will impact the 2020 election

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel, Yahoo News Editor-in-Chief Dan Klaidman, and HuffPost Reporter Ja'han Jones discuss how racism has impacted the 2020 presidential campaign.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: Joining us now is "HuffPost" reporter, Ja'Han Jones. Ja'Han, welcome.

JA'HAN JONES: How you doing? Thanks for having me.

ANDY SERWER: You recently took a look back at how President Trump often turns to racist language when he feels threatened, going all the way back to the 1980s. Tell us about that and the impact on black communities.

JA'HAN JONES: Sure. So I wrote that piece just to convey that this is in Trump, a person who has continually shown an eagerness to draw from the well of white supremacy throughout the entirety of his professional career, and certainly well into his political career. Early in his professional career you might be aware that he was accused of housing discrimination, not allowing black renters to stay in his spaces.

And then even more recently than that, when he took out the ad condemning what was then called the Central Park Five, he put out that ad during a time when he was experiencing effectively, financial calamity. And he resorted to that as a means to heighten his profile, up his credibility. And so the point of that piece was just to convey that he's deploying a similar strategy with his political campaign. Obviously at this time, the pandemic is ravaging the country. But he's continued to kind of tap of that well of white supremacy.

And the unfortunate thing for him, is that we're living at a time of actual scarcity. The pandemic has made that glaringly obvious. And scarcity doesn't really comply with the promises of white supremacy, which is that every white man can have access to the American dream. You can live a middle class life. You can acquire a refined education. All of those promises are becoming less and less realistic.

All the while, Trump is leaning more heavily into that kind of rhetoric. So I think that's where you see some of the suburban white people have kind of cleaved from his support, because not necessarily because of his rhetoric, but because some of the promises that might have been afforded to people through white supremacy and white nationalism in the past, are just becoming less and less realistic as a result of this pandemic that he cannot corral.

AMANDA TERKEL: So Trump has said he's done more for the black community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.

JA'HAN JONES: I know, yes. High self-praise.

AMANDA TERKEL: I know, I know you don't agree with that. But can you just talk a little bit, I mean, has he been, what do you think? Has he been the worst president for the black community since Abraham Lincoln? And what is he doing when he's saying this? What is his strategy here? Because his campaign is cynically trying to make overtures, I think, to black voters. What is he doing here?

JA'HAN JONES: Sure. I think to your point, there's a question as to whether those are really overtures to black voters or whether they're demonstrations to white people that he's not as racist as others might think. I always think back to in 2016, when Trump revealed his black platform on the tabloid, MediaTakeOut. I thought that's kind of a, I thought of that as kind of a great exemplification of the seriousness with which he takes black issues that he would release it in this kind of haphazard way through a tabloid. That's where he thinks he's meeting black people.

And I think since then, you've seen this very unserious approach to garnering the black vote. I mean, I don't know which rapper the Trump campaign is going to partner with next to kind of convey its message, but the reality is, that black people aren't going to be tricked into voting for a man who in some very overt ways, has made clear he doesn't want black people to vote. In 2016, he told black people they have nothing to lose by staying home.

In 2020, he is deploying upwards of $20 billion in lawsuits across the country to make voting more difficult, particularly in black areas. So all of these overtures he's making again, you have to wonder whether he's making those to black people or whether he's making those to white people who want to feel as though they're supporting a man who's not as racist as everyone believes him to be.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Ja'Han, if there's a silver lining to this very difficult period that we've been living through over the last six or eight months, it's that in some ways for all the wrong reasons, the country has come together to really focus on inequities, on social justice issues. To what extent do you think people in the black community are concerned or should be concerned that if Joe Biden is elected, that some of the energy goes out of that movement?

Because there's a sense that, well, now we have a Democrat who's committed to these issues. A little bit of I think about what happened when Barack Obama was elected, that a lot of people could say, a lot of people could say we've elected a black president and it's the end of racism.


DAN KLAIDMAN: It clearly wasn't. So is there concern in the black community about that?

JA'HAN JONES: Yes. And I actually don't think that concern is tied at all to Joe Biden winning. I saw a survey fairly recently that said a lot of the gains that were achieved as a result of the George Floyd protests with regard to anti-racist advocacy have regressed. Meaning the support for Black Lives Matter that we saw so heavily in the immediate wake of George Floyd's death has kind of dissipated in the time since. So I think that concern about apathy toward racism is just this ever present concern that looms over black people.

Certainly there's concern among more progressive black people that if a Democrat is elected, the people who live in this society who have been experiencing Trump for the last four years would believe that that was some sort of accomplishment and kind of take their foot off the gas. But I think the circumstances right now are so dire, that once Joe Biden is elected, there's going to be so much work to be done for years to come, that he won't be allowed to rest on his laurels, so to speak.

ANDY SERWER: All right. Ja'Han Jones, thank you so much for that insight.

JA'HAN JONES: I appreciate you.