As part of an ongoing effort to increase Trump’s share of the Black vote this fall, the president’s reelection campaign unveiled plans on Wednesday to open a series of “community centers” in empty retail spaces across the U.S. where paid staffers and volunteers will spend the next several months courting Black voters with literature, celebrity meet-and-greets and “woke”-branded attire.
The sleek new storefronts will begin opening in March and are expected to span seven battleground states: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
The goal is not necessarily to win the African American vote in 2020 — an implausible outcome — but to simply raise Trump’s share a few percentage points from the 8% he received in 2016. If Trump can take his African American vote share from single digits to the low teens, it could give him a boost in key states that are likely to decide the outcome of the election.
Each center will double as a field office and a home base for the campaign’s “Black Voices for Trump” coalition, which has already started advertising with African American-operated radio stations and newspapers. Trump traveled to Atlanta last November to kick off the coalition alongside his campaign’s most high-profile Black surrogates, some of whom will be dispatched to these new spaces for meet-and-greets and outreach events.
“These are, kind of, unprecedented structural layout designs to get us into the community so you can … have a center spot where the Black community can come in and learn about what the president has done and help push forward his agenda,” said a senior Trump campaign official.
The centers will distribute pamphlets and sell merchandise, including hats and sweatshirts embroidered with the word “woke.”
“This concept by itself is a woke concept in the fact that for decades you have had a community that has been controlled by the Democratic Party,” said Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. “Republicans haven’t even gone into deliver their message. Now, we have a Republican who is actually going to the community to deliver the message and ask for the vote.”
Democrats have expressed immense skepticism that Trump can make serious inroads with Black voters, who, they insist, will not forget that about the president’s track record of racially-charged remarks — such as his contention that Baltimore is a “rat and rodent infested mess” or that good people existed on “both sides” of the White nationalist march that left one person dead in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.
At the White House, senior adviser Jared Kushner has served as the architect of the Trump campaign’s strategy to woo African American voters. Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was a driving force behind the administration’s push to pass bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation last year and has been urging Trump to make a serious play for Black voters in 2020. Kushner and his allies argue that economic conditions — most notably, the historically low Black unemployment rate — have the potential to shepherd new voters into the GOP.