Tanzina: In recent weeks, leading up to the election, two hip hop artists have indicated their support for President Trump, well sort of. Hip hop artist, 50 Cent, announced his support for President Trump and encouraged fans to vote for him but this week he pulled his support for the president and Ice Cube admitted to helping the Trump administration connect with the Black community even as he clarified he is not supporting President Trump. Of course, we can't forget Kanye West's outspoken support for President Trump either.
Although Black voters are mostly siding with Biden, about 10% of Black men say they're supporting President Trump. That's according to data from Pew Research. Here to help us break all of this down is Erica D. Smith, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Erica, thanks for joining me.
Erica: Thanks for having me.
Tanzina: What was up with Ice Cub and 50 Cent? How did they align themselves with President Trump?
Erica: It's a weird story. With Ice Cube, it was basically he earlier this year had released a contract with Black America, which is basically a plan for helping Black Americans get ahead and combat some of the systemic racism that's been the topic of discussion this year. He's been floating this plan around apparently to different political parties, including to the Biden campaign and also to the Trump campaign.
According to him, the Biden campaign basically told them that they would get back to him after the election, assuming that Biden indeed win. The Trump campaign apparently showed more interest and so he worked with them, though it's a little bit unclear as to what that working with looked like, but work with them to help them develop their so-called platinum plan, which is supposedly to achieve a similar goal, but there's a little bit of an overlap there.
There's been a lot of hubbub about what Ice Cube actually did and did not do. Nonetheless, there's been some backlash about that. With 50 Cent, he came out on Instagram and said that he wanted to support Donald Trump basically because he did not like the Biden campaign's tax plan and that he'd be taxed so much. He since, as you mentioned, backed off of this, but nonetheless, it's caused some heartburn, I think probably in the left among the liberals about what Black men are willing to support as far as the Trump campaign is concerned over Biden. It's caused a little discussion within the Black American community about that.
Tanzina: I'm wondering, this is an interesting thing because it's playing out also among Hispanic, Latino voters who support President Trump in larger percentages, but when you look at the gender breakdown, it's mostly men of color who are supporting the president and here its Black men, at least 10% of whom say they support President Trump. What is the scope of that support?
Erica: It's really interesting as to why that's men versus women. I tried to explore this in a recent column, but I think one of the reasons has to do with Biden himself. There's been a lot of backlash and back and forth over his involvement in the 1994 Crime Bill and how that-- while he is understood to be leading to the mass incarceration of Black and Latino men. I think there's also some backlash to Kamala Harris, his running mate, given that she was both a district attorney and attorney general here in California and also for oversight at a time when Black men were being disproportionately thrown in prison.
I think there's some pushback because of the candidates, they are not necessarily because of Democrats, per se. That said, I think that men more than women, and this has been born out in a number of studies, are less connected to the Democratic Party and less connected to the electoral process. I think that basically all of the attention over this election has caused people to want to get more involved all of a sudden but I think there's a sense of, for people who have been disconnected for the process for so long that they don't really know how to do it. I think that we're seeing what that looks like now with people coming in, the 11th hour, trying to figure out what candidate to support and looking at the candidates with fresh eyes, as opposed to what's happened over the last four years in some ways.
Tanzina: Erica, President Trump has-- while racial tensions in this country are at her fever pitch, the president has insisted that he has been the best thing to happen to Black voters in this country, which is frankly debatable, and yet 94% of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Why are Black men such an important target for the GOP?
Erica: It's interesting. There are so many theories about that, that have been floating around over the last couple of months. There's everything from it's Trump is appealing to this idea of what is a "strong man" who can provide for his family, given Trump's history, as a supposed wealthy man and billionaire who's a successful businessman and that men of color, in particular, are drawn to that idea.
It's worth remembering that before his presidency, Trump was in a zillion and one rap songs. He was that person who was looked upon as here's the epitome of wealth and success in America among the hip hop community. That's obviously changed, but that was a thing for a very long time. There's also been this speculation about this idea of toxic masculinity that the Black and Latino men for a long time because of systemic racism have been unable to provide for their families and unable to get ahead economically.
Trump represents this person who has been able to do it without following the major rules of society, so there's that idea. I think it's never really that simple. It's worth remembering that the vast majority of Black men are planning on voting for Biden, according to all of these polls, it's just that small percentage. I think it's just basically just a lot of people, a lot of men, again, were not involved in the political process and are getting involved now and are basically trying to figure out how to do that. I think that it's because of that, I think it's a little bit messy how this is going and how it's happening.
Tanzina: I want to end by talking a little bit about some other approaches to trying to get Black men to the polls. I'd like to talk a little bit about specifically how the Democratic Party is to appeal to Black men. I think there's a lot of feeling among Black women in particular that they're often taken for granted by the Democratic Party, but what about Black men?
Erica: I think there's definitely that sense as well. I think Black Americans, in general, have felt that the Democratic Party has taken that for granted as voters but I think men, in particular, that has come up. In recent weeks you've seen Obama go out and speaking to Black men specifically, you've seen after Biden named Kamala as his VP pick, you've seen her as a senator go out to various different events and trying to smooth over and assure the activist coalitions of which many are Black men about what the Biden campaign or what the Biden administration would do to help Black people once in office, in terms of police reform, in terms of other issues along those lines.
I think there's definitely a concerted effort to get Black men to vote for Democrats but I think it's late and I think it should have happened earlier in the cycle, but it's better late than never. I think the majority of Black Americans think that there really isn't much of a choice in this election, that it has to be Biden at this point.
Tanzina: Erica D. Smith is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Erica, thanks for joining us.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.