The 100-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency was met with his own big splash rally costing $18 million at the Harrisburg Farm Show Complex on Saturday. Yet, little could mute the loud inconvenience of a Bureau of Economic Analysis report on the 99th day showing the U.S. gross domestic product growing at an anemic 0.7 percent.
That figure is the slowest in three years, and symbolizes an urgent trickle-down challenge for a beleaguered Black America faced with a triage of social, political and economic uncertainty.
One Executive Action that was closely watched by Black Americans was Trump’s personal outreach to Historically Black Colleges and University presidents, engineered by controversial White House chief advisor Omarosa Maginault.
An ill-advised and fumbled photo-op of Trump grinning at the Oval Office desk in the middle of suited Black HBCU presidents during their collective lobby of the president turned into an iconic meme as it captured blonde-haired campaign manager and senior advisor Kellyanne Conway straddled on knees across a couch with no shoes on as the HBCU leaders watched. That photo, which went quickly viral on social media, captured the essence of a very tenuous and damaged-beyond-repair relationship between the Trump administration and Black America.
In the end, the HBCU presidents only walked away from the fracas with little more than niceties from the president and vague promises of resources. When the administration unveiled its FY 2018 budget proposal, funding for HBCUs remained flat and the scaling back of Pell Grants, a critical funding need for financially strapped Black students, was recommended.
While Trump’s Cabinet picks have shown a lack of diversity, Trump did appoint surgeon Ben Carson to the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – a key federal agency overseeing the critical Fair Housing Act. Although Carson is African-American, the move was viewed with suspicion and acrimony given Carson’s complete lack of knowledge of housing issues and his own very testy relationship with the African American community. In the early weeks of his appointment, Carson slipped hard when, during a forum with HUD employees, he called African slaves “immigrants.”
President Trump’s first 100 days also ushered in what felt like a fast-choking and hurried roll-back of long championed voting and civil rights achievements. That, in addition to teaming up with Congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the signature President Obama Affordable Care Act, a landmark cut of legislation that sought to fill in massive healthcare disparity gaps. While the ACA remains in place, despite House Republican attempts at gutting it, it’s future remains uncertain, as does the fate of a number of key civil rights milestones.
“During the presidential campaign, President Trump promised to ‘make America great again,’” noted Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond in “What Did Trump Do?” a 20-page list of various policy actions in which the administration has engaged and that are viewed as harming African Americans. “However, all of the actions on this list will not, in our view, make America great.”
“They will do the very opposite of that. While it is troubling that the actions on this list have occurred and, in addition, that they have occurred in only 100 days of President Trump’s term, what is really troubling is that this new leader of the free world has hundreds of more days left in his term,” the report stated.
That opened up what the Caucus brands as a #StayWoke list of 100 actions by the administration on everything from cabinet-level and judicial appointments to education, environmental justice, health care, workers rights and economic development.
The idea, say Caucus Members, is to present as complete a public – and alarming – portrait of an administration completely acting in complete opposition to issues of crucial significance to Black America.
“President Trump has done little to allay the concerns which prompted 93 percent of Blacks to vote for someone else,” said Emory University’s Andra Gillespie. “While he has made some symbolic gestures towards Blacks during those first 100 days, those have been awkward and betray his unfamiliarity with Black communities.
“It is clear that the Trump administration is different from the Obama administration and that Blacks will feel the difference in a substantive way.”
Meanwhile, the administration has yet to pass any major legislation, is dangerously behind in the essential need to staff government, is watching – with indifference – a slowly mushrooming scandal around ties to Russia, and there is, critics say, very little discernible foreign policy beyond occasional bluster and bombing runs.
With the confirmation of conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch, now positioned in the Supreme Court for a lifetime, advocacy groups are bracing for an onslaught of reversals of long held civil rights protections.
On the surface, the new administration seems hungrily eager to exacerbate or even antagonize tensions with an embattled Black political and grassroots community that seems completely powerless in the wake of 2016 electoral outcomes.
Each day is met with either fresh news about the latest Obama-era regulation dismantled by the Trump administration or new rounds of accusations from the White House pointing fingers at the former First Black president for either authorizing surveillance on Trump the Candidate or approving former and now disgraced-by-investigation National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s top security clearance.
That’s more symbolic, say some observers, compared to the systematic unraveling of an extensive array of regulatory, policy and legal protections that have offered African Americans some semblance of progress over the past 50 years. Compounding that is an aggressive administration effort to radically downscale the federal government with an across-board 10 percent cut across federal agencies, with most domestic an social safety net programs on the chopping block and federal workers (a quarter of them Black) targeted.
“From the Attorney General’s failure to continue pursuing voting infringement cases and attempting to halt Obama police decrees, the overturning of Obama regulations on student loans, climate change and environmental justice, just to name a few, the first 100 days have had a very negative impact on African Americans,” said former Obama White House appointee Peter Groff.
“At this rate, even without any legislative activity, Black people will be staring at a federal government that is as hostile as any we’ve seen in nearly 30 years.”