Out of all the post-State of the Union hot takes given in the aftermath of President Trump’s barn burner address to the nation Tuesday night, perhaps the most unintentionally revealing one came from Democrat CNN political commentator Van Jones.

Jones zeroed in on the part of Trump’s speech he believed should concern the Democratic party the most going forward in the 2020 election season: Trump’s aggressive play for black voters.

During the speech, Trump highlighted essential issues to the black community:

  • Criminal justice reforms enacted under his administration
  • Securing “record” and permanent funding for HBCUs
  • Promoted school choice
  • Employment record
  • Emphasized pro-life values and religious freedom in his address

Between Trump’s speech, the ongoing Iowa caucus debacle, the infighting over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ rise in the polls, and the general state of disarray the Democratic party finds itself in, Jones said Democrats had just experienced a “big wake-up call” about the 2020 election:

I think the last 24 hours have been a big wake up call for Democrats. That’s what I think. The Iowa caucus was a debacle. And this was a very strong speech.

[…]

At the same time, a warning the Democrats. What he was saying to African-Americans can be effective. You may not like it but he mentioned HBCUs, our black colleges have been struggling for a long time, a bunch of them have gone under, he threw a lifeline to them in real life in his budget. He talked about that. He talked about the criminal justice reform. He talked about opportunity zones…

[cross-talk about school choice]

The thing about it is, and I think that we’ve got to wake up, folks, there’s a whole bubble thing that goes on, well he said s-hole nations therefore all black people are going to hate him forever. That ain’t necessarily so. And I think what you’re going to see him do is say you may not like my rhetoric, but look at my results, look at my record to black people. If he narrow casts that, it’s going to be effective.

Which means, as we move through this primary process, we’ve got to pay a lot more attention both to what’s going on with the Latino vote. Are we going to get a benefit in terms of having them respond and with the black vote. Is there going to be a split off, especially for black male voters? We’ve got to be clinical about this stuff. We get so emotional about it. That was a warning to us. A warning shot across the bow to Democrats that he’s going after enough black votes to cause us problems. It’s not just the white suburban voters, he’s going after black votes.

Watch Jones speak on this issue to a mostly-hushed CNN panel below:

He reiterated the points in an op/ed piece for CNN in which he closed by warning Democrats: “If we do not [respond with anything beyond outrage and fact-checks], the strategy Trump unveiled today will lead to his victory in November.”

Jones made some smart observations. But if history is a reliable indicator, his fellow Democrats won’t listen because Trump Derangement Syndrome so afflicts them that it has almost destroyed their ability to see beyond the red haze of rage that consumes them daily.

On the flip side of Jones’ astute commentary, we have Georgetown University adjunct professor Theodore Johnson, who wrote after the SOTU that Trump wasn’t really trying to chip away at the Democrats’ lock on the black vote. Instead, Johnson asserted that Trump was trying to “reassure white voters and depress black voters’ enthusiasm (and turnout) for the eventual Democratic nominee.”

While depressing enthusiasm for the eventual Democratic nominee is a no-brainer for any Republican campaign, the idea that Trump wants those same voters to stay home doesn’t make sense when you consider Trump’s highly competitive nature.

If we’ve learned nothing else about him over the years, one thing we do know is that Trump loves a challenge – and he likes to win. He wants to prove people wrong who say he can’t do something. And when it comes to winning back some of the black voters Republicans lost over the years as well as those who may sour on the eventual Democratic nominee, the Trump campaign and the Republican party both have made concerted efforts since his election to do just that.

The 2016 exit polls showed Trump won 8% of the black vote. 13% of the votes for Trump were from black men.

Considering how close presidential elections can be in individual states, if he could win just a small percentage more of the black vote, the Democratic party would be in deep, deep trouble. It’d be like a dam going from a slow leak to a bursting break, and all Democrats could do is watch in shock from the sidelines as it happened.

It’d make the Democratic shock from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss look like child’s play. Wouldn’t that be something?

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —

 

 
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