While some of Donald Trump’s early personnel choices are leading some Democrats and media figures to conclude a racially insensitive administration is preparing to take charge in Washington, the leader of a prominent black conservative group says the concerns are double standards whipped up by the left and that Trump’s controversial choices are actually more tame on racial issues than their counterparts in the Obama administration.
And he is also offering Trump some advice on how to make good on promises to revitalize predominantly black neighborhoods.
As of Monday afternoon, Trump has named people to five prominent positions, only two of which require Senate confirmation. The choices eliciting the most concern from the left and the mainstream media are Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, for attorney general and former Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon for chief strategist and counselor.
Project 21 National Advisory Board Co-Chair Horace Cooper begs to differ on multiple fronts. First, he is weary of race being injected into every political debate.
“We are distorting the conversation, generally, about public policy by randomly throwing around epithets that this person or that person, either a supporter or and individual affiliated with Mr. Trump, must in some way be bigoted, racist, or sexist,” said Cooper, who served as general counsel for former House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas.
He says that constant prism is also a hindrance to advancing good policy.
“The idea that a person is for a tax cut or against a tax cut, is for a construction project or against a construction project, can only be viewed from the prism of does that make you a racist, a sexist, or some other ‘ist,’ is completely unhelpful,” he said.
Cooper is also frustrated by what he sees as a massive media double standard on personnel, noting that current Obama counselor Valerie Jarrett and former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder got a free pass even though they contributed mightily, in his eyes, to far worse race relations over the past eight years.
“These two individuals helped to encourage and promote what could only and honestly considered to be racially divisive policies by President Obama, and yet none of these questions were being considered,” said Cooper.
“I bring those two names up because I want to highlight the contrast where the media has played no role and where voices that claim they are interested in encouraging America to come together have been completely silent, even to this day, about the role that those two individuals provided in the Obama administration,” said Cooper.
Stacked up against Holder and Jarrett, Cooper believes Sessions and Bannon look pretty good.
“I don’t see any similar record with regard to the designate for attorney general, Mr. Sessions, or to Mr. Bannon as a key strategist and counselor in the office of the White House,” said Cooper.
Critics of both Sessions and Bannon point with alarm to statements and posts from avowed racists praising the choices.
“Bannon, Flynn, Sessions — Great! Senate must demand that Sessions as AG stop the massive institutional race discrimination against whites!” tweeted former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who recently collected three percent of the vote in Louisiana’s jungle U.S. Senate primary. He finished in seventh place.
Cooper says an avowed klansman in publicly endorsed and donated to Hillary Clinton and she faced little media pressure to denounce him, although her campaign did. He says the bottom line on a candidate or nominee is their record and not who likes them.
“I actually don’t care whether (Louis) Farrakhan or whether the Klan issues an endorsement in the election. What I care about is what are policies and characteristics of the individual in question who is asking for our vote,” said Cooper.
Once again, Cooper says the media is showing a double standard.
“This has not been an even-handed assessment on the part of the media. If they would like us to have this more expansive view, that supporters of given a given entity or individual are as important or more important than the candidate him or herself, then they needed to have been saying or doing that over the last eight years. And they didn’t,” said Cooper.
He also hammers the press for drawing parallels between what might come in a Trump administration and the segregation era of American history.
“The mainstream media is working hand in glove with progressives to create this false impression. This is not good for the country. It is not helpful to pretend that a record in America that existed during the era of Jim Crow is the functional equivalent of a 21st century Trump transition team,” said Cooper.
“If we are serious about looking at the rhetoric, we need to match the rhetoric with the reality. Nothing in Donald Trump’s commentaries is the equivalent of that old evil of segregation and racism,” said Cooper.
Cooper hopes Trump can put the concerns of many at ease by making good on his promise for a New Deal for the black community. Cooper says any meaningful effort will start with improving schools in those neighborhoods. And that means improving school choice.
“We’ve absolutely got to stop the union stranglehold over our schools and allow our young people, particularly in the inner city, to have the option of leaving poorly-functioning public schools or threaten to be able to leave them,” said Cooper.
He says that choice ought to extend to faith-based schools as well.
“That’s a key ingredient in the black community that will instill the kinds of achievement values that are biblically based. That would go a long way to assuring that young black men and women who graduate from failed public schools, and not able to read their diploma, would be able to not only read their diploma but be able to compete,” said Cooper.
On the economic side, Cooper says enforcing and even tightening immigration policy would greatly help improve employment in black neighborhoods since illegal immigrants can easily underbid American citizens for work.
But Cooper also says government policies that encourage entrepreneurship can also revitalize those local economies.
“If you want to incentivize employers, then you create a right regulatory regime and the right tax regime so that it is possible that jobs in the community close to where inner city residents live can develop,” said Cooper.