This week the U.S. Treasury announced a plan to add faces of women and civil rights leaders to U.S. currency, including replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 with Harriet Tubman. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently commented that this decision was “pure political correctness,” before suggesting Tubman could go on the $2. Trump's comments echo some of those in right-wing media, who have called the decision “dumb” and a “travesty” and said that it “ensures [our] enslavement.”
An April 21 article by the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein pointed to Trump's comments as an example that “illustrates some of the broader challenges facing Republicans seeking to win over black voters”:
When the U.S. Treasury Department announced that they were bumping Andrew Jackson off the front of the $20 bill to be replaced by Harriet Tubman, most conservatives and Republicans praised the decision. But not Donald Trump.
Instead, Trump derided the decision as “pure political correctness” and suggested maybe Tubman appear on the little-used $2 bill instead. Trump's comments followed those of Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, who charged that the Obama administration “went stupid” with the decision to bump Jackson, supposedly picking a “completely unnecessary fight” that was “dividing the country.”
Typically, I'd dismiss Trump as an outlier for his comments, but it's harder to do that given that he's the Republican front-runner who has won more votes than any other candidate. The episode illustrates some of the broader challenges facing Republicans seeking to win over black voters.
If resistance to Republicans among the black community cannot be explained by ideology alone, then, what else can it be attributed to?
Another aspect is that for all the official efforts at black outreach among national Republicans, and attempts at racial sensitivity by elected officials, whenever the issue of race is in the news, there's always a Republican or conservative media figure somewhere saying something off-putting.
What gets communicated to blacks is that a lot of Republicans are resentful toward them and dismissive of any complaints about modern day racism. When the Republican front-runner, instead of using the Harriet Tubman news as an opportunity to celebrate an American icon, takes the chance to slam “political correctness,” it's one other incident that reinforces this impression.