Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
As if the presidency of decrepit Joe Biden weren’t already in a catastrophic free-fall, now comes the news that he is hemorrhaging support from black Americans. That’s got to be unsettling for a President who claimed he got his start at an historically black university, who claimed that he was once arrested during a civil rights march, and who declared that if you voted for Trump over him then “you ain’t black.” But the bitter truth progressives must concede is that blacks are abandoning the Democrat plantation because their lives were measurably better under former President Donald Trump, a man the Left spent four years demonizing as Literally Hitler™.
The evidence for black success under Trump has been impressively marshaled in a short new book by Wall Street Journal columnist and Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute Jason L. Riley. The author of Please Stop Helping Us, False Black Power?, and Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell has just released The Black Boom from Templeton Press, whose central argument – one guaranteed to spark progressive rage, particularly because Riley is black – is that American “blacks saw economic progress under Trump that the Obama administration didn’t come close to matching.”
Bear in mind that Riley is no fan of Trump and did not vote for him in either election, but he has the intellectual integrity to acknowledge that “racial inequality improved on Trump’s watch, and much of the media were too busy agitating against him to take note or give credit where it was due. Reporters suspended any professional and ethical standards in a concerted effort to take down a president they didn’t like.”
Riley begins by noting that, historically, racial and ethnic minority groups in America that have risen fastest from poverty into the middle class did so not through consolidating political power but “rather on developing the human capital – the education, skills, work habits, and attitudes – that facilitates upward mobility.” Irish immigrants of the mid-19th century, for example, quickly established political machines in cities from Boston to San Francisco, but economically, they trailed other immigrant groups who completely lacked such political influence. An Irish middle class emerged only after those political machines declined in power.
So too with blacks, who achieved significant economic progress not through “greater political representation nor with massive welfare-state interventions,” but when they had greater access to labor markets. Blacks do better when America’s economy does better, Riley states: “What’s needed more than political saviors, racial preferences, and wealth distribution schemes, is economic growth and opportunity.”
In his chapter contrasting Trump’s and Obama’s effect on black America, Riley points out the rise in black support for Trump during his tenure in office: “Trump’s 4-point increase among blacks in 2020 – which included a remarkable 6-point increase among black men – got the GOP back to its traditional share of the black vote in recent decades, even while the president was regularly portrayed as a racist in the press.” Riley calls Trump’s success with the Hispanic vote even more impressive. “To insist that [minority voters] were confused or tricked ignores a far simpler and more likely explanation: Many of these voters found themselves better off economically under Donald Trump than under his predecessor.”
Precisely how much of the credit for the economic boom for blacks goes to Trump, who fulfilled his campaign promise to lower taxes and lighten regulations to spur economic growth, and how much to Obama is “probably unknowable,” Riley writes, but nonetheless, prior to the 2020 pandemic, “the economic fortunes of blacks improved under Trump to an extent that was not only unseen under Obama but unseen going back several generations.” [emphasis added] Riley finishes the chapter by emphasizing that a “president who understands and appreciates the ingredients for overall economic growth is far more useful to blacks than one who just happens to share their racial classification.”
In a chapter called “The Immigration Distraction,” Riley reassures readers that he believes there are “many reasons to reduce illegal immigration as much as possible,” and that “calling for better border enforcement is not tantamount to racism, which was the claim of many on the left during the Trump presidency. We are a nation of laws, and illegal immigration undermines the rule of law.” Nevertheless, he argues that mass immigration has little negative impact on minority workers, and that “the Trump administration’s concerns about foreign workers displacing and depressing wages were largely off base.” This statement would not sit well with former Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Executive Director Frank Morris Sr., who wrote in an op-ed last month for the Chicago Tribune that high immigration levels have been devastating for black American wealth and have driven “staggering inequality.”
As with an earlier book of Riley’s, False Black Power?, The Black Boom contains a section with a pair of dissenting views, in this instance from Fox News political analyst Juan Williams and Kentucky State University political science professor Wilfred Reilly. Prof. Reilly, the author of Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War, disputes what he calls Jason Riley’s “sizable soft spot for mass immigration and even illegal immigration.”
The always-predictably race-mongering Juan Williams begins his rebuttal by smearing Trump as a racist before martialing stats and figures to counter Jason Riley’s thesis that Trump was better for blacks and other minorities than Barack Obama was: “Keep in mind that polls show Trump is regarded as racist by most black Americans… as well as by Americans of all colors…”
Williams argues that “the lion’s share of black economic progress” took place under Obama’s reign. Asserting that “racial barriers” throughout American history “might as well be called affirmative action for White Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” he claims that any racial progress made in the Trump years happened in spite of, not because of, the former President.
In response, Riley refutes Williams’ “disingenuous” essay by noting that Trump took an Obama economy that was “cooling off” and boosted it far beyond the expectations of all the so-called experts – “and the benefits redounded as never before to minorities.” Once again Trump proved himself to be a complete failure as a racist.
Riley concludes the book by summarizing his central argument:
Social and economic inequality historically has had many causes, but in the twenty-first century it is driven primarily by the underdevelopment of human capital within a group. Tempting though it may be to find excuses (racism) or scapegoats (immigrants) to explain why some groups lag and others excel, it’s not at all clear that focusing on such matters, as opposed to prioritizing self-development, is the most effective way of helping people advance.
On that point, Riley believes that he and his fellow contributors agree.
Economist Arthur Laffer correctly states that The Black Book “is nonpartisan, sharply reasoned, and deserving of serious attention.” The editors of Reason too are on target when they praise the slim book’s “persuasive, provocative, and counterintuitive analysis.” In the face of the tired old progressive narrative that they are the champions of black America, Jason L. Riley demonstrates that – as always, and as black Americans under Biden are realizing – it is the Democrat Party that keeps blacks down.