The President’s Visit to Detroit Was as Much Anti-Trump as it Was Pro-Biden

President Joe Biden’s trip to Detroit Sunday, May 19, marked his second official trip to the city this year. The first came in February, when he stopped to meet with UAW leaders as a follow-up to his 2023 visit to stand on the picket lines with striking auto workers.

This visit looked a little different. He still stopped at a local business – CRED Café – and he still met with local elected officials and clergy like he did on his previous visit, but his agenda was clear: try to win the Black vote.

Currently, according to a recent poll from the Pew Institute, 83 percent of Black voters say they would vote for Biden today. This is only slightly lower than the 88 percent who said they would vote for Biden in 2020. The problem for Biden, though, is that 49 percent of the Black voters who were polled in the study said that they’d vote for a different candidate altogether than Biden or former President Donald Trump.

So Biden’s trip to Detroit included a private conversation with Black residents in the Rivertown neighborhood near downtown, and a speaking engagement at the Detroit NAACP’s 69th Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner – the largest NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in the country.

The sold-out crowd included Detroit’s most influential people, from business leaders to policymakers, the state’s top-ranking officials in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Sen. Gary Peters, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and so many others.

After Detroit NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony delivered a riveting opening for Biden – one that stirred up memories of the famous “10,000 Tongues” delivered by Rev. Dr. Charles Adams at Rosa Parks’ funeral – the President of the United States wasted no time in addressing the concerns of the predominantly Black audience.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core strengths of America,” he said. Later in his address, he said “Folks are trying to erase Black history, but Black history is American history.” He made it apparent that the “folks” he was referring to were people being led by Trump. And that’s when Biden’s address went from being a pro-Biden rally cry to an anti-Trump message.

“Because of your vote, it’s the only reason I’m standing here as president of the United States. You’re the reason Donald Trump is the defeated former president and you’re the reason Donald Trump is going to be a loser again,” Biden said.

In perhaps in his most direct shots at Trump, Biden quipped: “He just can’t accept that he lost. He lost. He’s not only obsessed with not losing 2020…he’s unhinged. … What do you think he would’ve done Jan. 6 if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol? … Trump said if he loses in November, there will be, quote, ‘Bloodshed.’ What kind of person is that?”

Biden’s approach to winning over the crowd with anti-Trump rhetoric isn’t uncharted waters politically. Trump has notoriously taken the same approach – taking shots at Biden at every turn. He did so when he was in Michigan earlier this year and he’s made it his personal approach to garnering support.

“Under crooked Joe Biden, every state is now a border state. Every town is now a border town because Joe Biden has brought the carnage and chaos and killing from all over the world and dumped it straight into our backyards,” Trump said during his visit to Grand Rapids in April 2024.

Politics involve a lot of mudslinging. And early polling numbers indicate that a lot of voters going to the polls this November will do so to cast a vote against one candidate as opposed to voting for another.

It’s become an interesting time in American politics, when so many voters feel as though their votes are being cast for who they think is “the lesser of two evils” instead of for the candidate who they feel can effectively impact the changes they want to see.

But here we are. It’s our reality. Michigan is an important battleground state and has historically been a key factor in determining the outcome of the presidential election. Not since presidential hopeful John Kerry’s 2004 campaign has a nominee won the Michigan vote and failed to be voted into office as President.

Part of the issue with Biden’s approach, though, is that the Black voters he’s trying to appeal to have a clear understanding of Trump’s track record. The rhetoric that Black voters are somehow siding with Trump because of the criminal charges levied against him, or because he released a sneaker, are so farfetched. Black voters want to see tangible changes in their socioeconomic status. Black voters want tangible changes in the healthcare options available to them. Black voters want to see more police accountability. Black voters want to ensure that they have opportunities they’ve historically been disenfranchised from. Black voters want better education in underserved communities. So if there seems to be a disconnect between the Black voter base and Biden, the POTUS would be best served by continuing his approach to the first part of his Detroit visit. Continue having conversations with Black voters and allow them to feel seen and heard. But also, follow up these conversations with actions they can see and feel in their lives.  

It’s going to be a long five months between now and November’s general election. Only time will tell if Biden’s approach is a success or a failure.

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