“Are you with me?” Biden and Harris launch Black voter outreach and warn of a second Trump term

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive for a campaign event at Girard College, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

By AAMER MADHANI Associated Press

President Joe Biden renewed his election-year pitch to Black voters on Wednesday, lashing out at Donald Trump’s “MAGA lies” and said the winner of this year’s White House race will make crucial decisions, including nominees for the Supreme Court, that could affect the country for decades.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, in a joint appearance at a Philadelphia boarding school, thanked Black voters in Pennsylvania and beyond for being the lynchpin to their 2020 victory and they made the case that their agenda has had an enormous impact on improving lives for Black voters.

The Democratic president also argued that an “unhinged” Trump is peddling misinformation in an effort to win back the White House.

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Donald Trump turn America into a place of anger, resentment and hate,” Biden said, calling on the crowd to help him and Harris win a second term. “My question is a simple one: Are you with me?”

President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Girard College, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Evan Vucci

At Girard College, which has a predominantly Black student body, Biden warned about the threat he said a second Trump presidency would pose and cited some of the racial controversies fanned by the presumptive Republican nominee during his life.

“This is the same guy who wanted to tear gas you as you peacefully protested George Floyd’s murder. The same guy who still calls the Central Park Five guilty, even though they were exonerated,” Biden told the crowd. “He’s that landlord who denies housing applications because of the color of your skin.”

The Philadelphia visit was the start of what the Biden campaign describes as a summerlong effort to engage Black student organizations, community groups and faith centers. It reflects in part how much of their support of him has frayed as Trump aims to make inroads into the longtime Democratic constituency.

The issue of abortion rights and the judiciary also featured in the remarks from Biden and Harris. The vice president noted that Trump dramatically shaped the Supreme Court as she invoked the name of Thurgood Marshall, the high court’s first Black justice.

Trump, she said, “handpicked three members of the Supreme Court — the court of Thurgood — with the intention that they would overturn Roe vs. Wade,” the landmark abortion rights ruling. “And as he intended, they did.”

President Joe Biden listens as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a campaign event at Girard College, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Evan Vucci

“Who sits in the White House matters,” she said.

Underscoring that point later, Biden said the next president is “going to be able to appoint a couple justices.”

Among Black adults, Biden’s approval has dropped from 94% when he started his term to just 55%, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll published in March.

The economy has been a particular thorn in Biden’s side since 2022, when inflation hit a 40-year high. But there have also been signs of discontent in the Black community more recently over Biden’s handling of the seven-month Israel-Hamas war.

Turning out Black voters could prove pivotal for Biden’s chances in what are expected to be among the most closely contested states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden beat his predecessor and 2024 challenger, former President Donald Trump, in all six states in 2020, but he could face a more difficult climb this year.

Trump has been offering himself as a better president for Black voters than Biden. At a rally last week in the Bronx, he railed against Biden on immigration and said “the biggest negative impact” of the influx of migrants in New York is “against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York.AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

The Biden campaign wants to use the new engagement effort in part to remind Black voters of some of the Democratic administration’s achievements of his term. On Wednesday, Biden repeated the refrain “because you voted” as he rattled off a litany of his accomplishments for Black Americans, including record funding for historically Black colleges and universities, forgiveness of federal student loan debt and pardons for simple possession of marijuana.

“Black voters placed enormous faith in me,” Biden said. “I’ve tried to do my best to honor that trust.”

The Black unemployment rate sits at 5.6%, according to the latest federal government data, compared to the average of about 8% from 2016 to 2020 and 11% from 2000 to 2015. Black household wealth has surged, and Biden’s effort to cancel billions in student loan debt that has disproportionately impacted Black borrowers.

Biden also points to his appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and his pick of Harris as the first Black woman to serve as vice president.

The president’s visit to Philadelphia follows on a series of engagements with Black community members in recent weeks, including hosting plaintiffs in the 1954 Supreme Court decision that struck down institutionalized racial segregation in public schools, a commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and a virtual address to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s racial justice conference.

Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim in Washington contributed to this remark.