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Harlem Gives President Trump a Chance

Jason_Riley.jpgJason Riley, WSJ, Nov 16, 2016

The black community isn’t despondent or angry. ‘If Trump can go in there and shake things up,’ one man says, ‘I’d like that.’

Harlem, N.Y.  This may come as a shock to the political left, but not everyone who opposed Donald Trump is as angry or despondent as the demonstrators who grabbed headlines nationwide over the past week or the pundits who intellectualized the Democratic hissy fit.

On Monday I took a stroll around New York City’s Harlem neighborhood and asked a couple of dozen black residents to respond to the election and subsequent protests. I didn’t come across any Trump voters—or at least any who admitted it—but many told me they had expected Hillary Clinton’s defeat. No one thought it was the end of the world.

“Hillary wasn’t strong enough. She didn’t fight enough,” said a gentleman leaving a drugstore, who introduced himself as Pace. “People saw her as weak and thought she’d be weak in the White House.” He also faulted Mrs. Clinton’s 

message. “She was talking about what she did in other countries as secretary of state. I can understand the situation around the world, but we live here.” Mr. Trump, in contrast, “was talking about the people who live here—the poor, the veterans.”

When I asked Pace, who retired from a job in dress manufacturing several years ago, if he thought Mr. Trump would ever win him over, he responded: “He said he’d protect Medicare. I can go along with that. He said he’d get rid of the Bloods and the Crips and the gangs—get them out of here. I like that. If he does those two things, he’s my man.”

At a nearby hair salon, the proprietor, a 30-something West African woman who asked me not to use her name, said Mrs. Clinton lost because the country “didn’t want a female president, wasn’t ready for it.” Still, she’s optimistic about a Trump administration. “I think things will be different in a good way. He might surprise us. I don’t think he’s a bad person. It’s just the way he talks. He was real and people like that. I don’t think he’ll do the really crazy things like deporting everybody.”

Derrick, an off-duty police officer, told me that he considers Mr. Trump a con artist who tricked people into voting for him and won’t come through, especially on his promise to bring back manufacturing jobs. “But I’ll give him this,” he said. “She was not talking about securing this country, and that’s what he was talking about. People are watching people get blown up by these terrorists, and they’re scared, and she was talking about an open border. She didn’t emphasize scrutinizing the people who are coming in, and he did.”

Outside a storefront church on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Bishop Gibson sat staring at his smartphone. He was eager to get some things off his chest when I approached. “First, it doesn’t bother me a bit if Trump is in there or not,” he said. “I don’t lose a minute’s sleep. My president is Jesus.” The bishop told me that some of his congregants were concerned about what the new president would do, but not enough to be demonstrating in the streets. “I don’t understand. You’re protesting, you’re rioting, but did you vote? Some did, but a lot didn’t.”

Bishop Gibson said Mr. Trump’s “law and order” message resonated with Harlemites but that ultimately “the president can’t do much about crime.” It has to start with the communities—churches, families and fathers in particular, he said.

This is a message heard often in black neighborhoods by people who aren’t professional agitators with political agendas. “These protesters,” he said, “tearing up stores and businesses and apartments, won’t solve nothing.”

Then the bishop chuckled. “Do you remember that video of the woman who saw her son protesting and went and hit him upside the head?” he asked, referring to the viral clip ofToya Graham, the Baltimore mother who caught her son participating in last year’s riots. “I really admire that woman.”

The anti-Trump demonstrations are in many cases organized and supported by people who make a living manufacturing outrage: Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, MoveOn.org, Showing Up for Racial Justice, the Equity Coalition. And the protests are likely to continue, off and on, at least until the president-elect’s inauguration.

But Mr. Trump should understand that some of the minority voters who opposed him are open-minded, even swayable. They are more tolerant than the Democratic partisans and professional protesters would have him believe. The people I spoke with want to see their president succeed, not to deny his legitimacy because their preferred candidate didn’t win.

They’re keeping things in perspective. They haven’t written him off. As Pace put it, “If Trump can go in there and shake things up a little—he ain’t got to complete everything—but shake things up and make things a little better, I’d like that.”

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Harlem Gives President Trump a Chance
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