During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump’s attempt to appeal to African-American voters was to simply ask them, “What have you got to lose?” It was meant to suggest that previous administrations—particularly his predecessor—had done nothing for them. We see the same claims made in the endless stream of articles from right-wing media suggesting that Trump is going to win over a large share of African American voters in the 2020 election. Of course, to believe that is to live in an epistemic bubble where facts don’t intrude.
More than 8 in 10 black Americans say they believe Trump is a racist and that he has made racism a bigger problem in the country. Nine in 10 disapprove of his job performance overall.
Similarly, there are people on the left who, when confronted with the overwhelming support for Biden among African Americans, claim that the Obama-Biden administration did nothing for black people. Since that claim has surfaced on Twitter several times, perhaps it is time to remind everyone of some facts.
The first place to start would be to acknowledge that every item on the list of Obama’s top 50 accomplishments that was compiled by Paul Glastris and myself applied to African Americans. That would include things like saving the automobile industry and avoiding war with Iran by negotiating an end to their nuclear weapons program.
But many of the things that directly affected African Americans were accomplished via work done by Eric Holder at the Justice Department—particularly with regards to the Civil Rights Division, which was initially led by Tom Perez and later by Vanita Gupta. Many of those efforts went to the heart of the issues that are a major concern in the African-American community, such as investigating police abuse and negotiating consent agreements. Perez and Holder were able to defend disparate impact as the standard for investigating discrimination in a case that went before the Supreme Court.
Other federal departments worked with the Justice Department to accomplish things like:
- ending the school to prison pipeline,
- prosecuting cases of redlining, and
- winning settlements from banks for reverse redlining with mortgages.
Those are just a few of the things that the Obama-Biden administration accomplished to address the concerns of African Americans. But this week we learned about another item we can add to the list. Here are some of the highlights of a study done by the Commonwealth Fund on the impact of Obamacare.
* The ACA’s coverage expansions have led to historic reductions in racial disparities in access to health care since 2013…
* The gap between black and white adult uninsured rates dropped by 4.1 percentage points…
* Five years after the ACA’s implementation, black adults living in states that expanded Medicaid report coverage rates and access to care measures as good as or better than what white adults in nonexpansion states report.
It is important to note that this study also found that, when it comes to the reduction in racial disparities, “progress has stalled and, in some cases, eroded since 2016.” As with everything else the previous administration accomplished, the gains are being reversed by this president. So obviously, African Americans had a lot to lose when it came to a Trump presidency.
One could make the case that the Obama-Biden administration should have done more to address the issues faced by African Americans. But the claim that they did nothing is simply preposterous.