Compared with the ongoing firestorm over Russia and impending showdown over health care, President Trump’s meeting with Congressional Black Caucus leaders Wednesday might seem peripheral to a presidency careening through constant turmoil. But the session, which aired but didn’t resolve differences about the federal budget and other domestic issues, captured a critical test of his political movement’s long-term viability.
One of Trump’s most frequently expressed goals is reconstructing the GOP as a “worker’s party” that appeals to blue-collar Americans across racial lines. Key Trump supporters recognize that building an enduring coalition will depend on attracting more working-class black, Hispanic, and other minority voters to the agenda of economic nationalism that has riveted their white counterparts.
“If eight years from now, the Trump agenda ... is only a white majority and it is hanging on by the skin of its teeth, because they are getting 29 percent of the Latino vote and 8 percent of the African American vote, it’s failed,” said Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, who has broadly supported Trump’s vision.
Even Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s senior strategist, has implicitly accepted that conclusion. In a revealing post-election interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bannon put minorities center-stage in his long-term goals. “If we deliver,” Bannon said, “we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote, and we’ll govern for 50 years.” With those comments, Bannon effectively conceded that to secure a lasting GOP advantage, Trump needed not only big numbers among whites but also much greater inroads among non-whites.