Four years ago, candidate Donald Trump’s pitch to African Americans heading to voting booths was simple: “What do you have to lose?”
While he captured just 8 percent of the black vote in 2016, recent polls suggest things could be different this time around.
In November, an Emerson poll reported a 34.5 percent approval rating among black voters, and a January Gallup poll reported a 14 percent increase in satisfaction over race relations among Americans.
Here, five black New Yorkers — all former Democrats — tell The Post why they’re flipping parties and voting Republican this year.
“I’m sold on his immigration policies”
KYREE DAVIS, 36, STATEN ISLAND
“When Trump announced his candidacy, I thought it was a joke,” said Kyree Davis, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “I said, ‘Hopefully, he’s not the racist, bigoted a–hole he portrays on TV.’
“At first, I was scared, because of the way he talks, that we’d go to war immediately. I was afraid he’d run the country as a cold business,” said the Staten Islander, who works in high-end retail sales. “But those fears were not realized.”
He started to support Trump after the president’s first year in office, mainly due to immigration policies. “It’s why I got behind him. It’s one of the biggest issues facing America today. And I noticed the tax cut. We all got more money in our paychecks — it’s not just for the rich,” said Davis, who disagrees with some of Trump’s foreign policy positions, particularly with Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Still, Davis, who is gay, said he pays a social premium for supporting Trump. “I’ve been called Uncle Tom, Uncle Ruckus [a character from the ‘Boondocks’ comic strip], traitor, house Negro, Oreo — white on the inside,” he said. “Literally everything but a proud black man.”
So far, he’s been too nervous to wear a Make America Great Again cap in New York City, but that may change: “I just saw a black guy wearing a MAGA knit skullcap on the subway. I thought maybe I should, too.”
“I’m doing very well financially”
QUAN LANAE GREEN, 35, POUGHKEEPSIE
Quan Lanae Green almost voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But the married mother of three ended up sitting out the election.
“In the end, I was torn. She was a woman and I wanted to support another woman, but it didn’t feel right to vote solely on that,” said Green, who was raised a diehard Democrat.
But over the past couple of years, she’s broken from her family.
“Democrats are a bunch of hypocrites and really take advantage of the African American vote. Democratic politicians [think they] don’t have to work hard for the black vote. They take [it] for granted,” said the Poughkeepsie resident, who is a self-employed life coach.
“In Poughkeepsie, I’ve seen a bunch of promises to the black community that haven’t been fulfilled,” she said, citing a parade of Democratic leaders who promised more community centers, more money for schools and to rebuild parks.
“They haven’t done anything like that,” Green added. “They’ve built new jails in the community.”
Meanwhile, she said, her life has improved under Trump.
“I’ve been doing very well financially,” said Green who invests in real estate and the stock market. “Since Trump’s been in office, my stocks have increased exponentially.”
But she would like to change one thing about the president: “I wish he were more socially adept — he’s made a lot of enemies.”
“The costs for my mom’s medications have dropped”
MIKE REYES, 32, HUDSON HEIGHTS
Mike Reyes gave up love for Trump.
In 2018, his girlfriend broke up with him after he declared his support for the president. “She didn’t like my views,” said Reyes, who works in healthcare technology.
“I became a Republican after Trump won,” he added, ticking off the things that swayed him: the president’s position on prison reform and creating the First Step Act, which helps nonviolent offenders get early releases. Reyes’ Dominican-born father was incarcerated on drug offenses in the ’90s and deported from the US. “This act helps [ex-convicts] become better citizens,” he said.
Reyes, who voted for Barack Obama but sat out the 2016 election, is also enthusiastic about job-creation numbers and a declining consumer price index for prescription drugs.
“My mom has diabetes and hypertension. The costs for her medications have dropped,” said the Hudson Heights resident. “If Trump weren’t here, she’d be paying a lot more.”
In January, Reyes — who in 2014 worked as an assistant campaign manager for a Democratic congressional candidate — become co-chairman of the new Harlem Republican Club. He wants to provide a safe space for black New Yorkers to come out as Republicans. “You can be a Republican who supports gay rights as well,” he said.
If he has one complaint about Trump, it’s the Twitter tirades. “Take it easy,” Reyes advised.
When Reyes worked on the Democratic congressional campaign, he recalled telling a white co-worker that he wanted to work in private equity. That person told Reyes he would be more successful and paid better if he were white.
“He basically said, ‘The system is rigged against you because you’re a minority,’ ” Reyes said, who feels that attitude is problematic.
“Democrats want you to be the victim,” he said. “Republicans don’t look at my skin color.”
“He will fight human trafficking”
DIAMOND GIBSON, 24, FOREST HILLS
“I didn’t like Trump at first. I was listening to people saying he was racist, that he was taking away food stamps,” said Diamond Gibson, who didn’t vote in 2016. “But I did my own research, and it isn’t true. OK??”
Gibson, who moved to Forest Hills, Queens, from Atlanta four years ago, warmed to Trump when he signed a 2017 executive order that works to dismantle international trafficking.
“Cracking down on human trafficking is important to me,” said Gibson, who is currently unemployed.
Once she came out as a Trump supporter, the blowback was immediate. The 24-year-old recalled how a relative “told me, ‘Go kill yourself’ while we were discussing Trump’s immigration policy.”
But that hasn’t stopped Gibson, who studied business administration at New York’s ASA College for a few semesters. Last summer, she interned for North Carolina Congressman Ted Budd, a Republican, and hopes to enroll in law school after she pays down her student loan debt.
That said, Gibson is no fan of Bernie Sanders’ proposal to cancel student loan debt. “If I borrow money, I know I have to pay it back,” she said.
“I’ve felt canceled by Democrats”
SHALAH COLLINS, 39, LYNDHURST, NJ
“The left talks about inclusivity. But they’re hypocrites,” said Shalah Collins. “I’ve felt canceled and shoved to the side.”
In 2016, she was a Bernie Sanders supporter and believes the Democratic National Committee effectively rigged the nomination against him. “His nomination was given to Hillary Clinton. It was unfair and fixed,” she said.
The Lyndhurst, NJ, resident ended up voting for Jill Stein. This year, Collins said, she’ll vote for Trump.
That’s in big part because in 2018, Collins, who worked in the NYPD Communications Division for a decade, became a self-employed finance professional. Being a business owner changed her thinking and priorities.
Over the past few years, the single mom has appreciated the “historically low tax environment.”
“For those who are self-employed, they can put away a lot more money for retirement,” she said.
And even if Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, Collins won’t support him again. “Bernie’s appeal to me was as a populist, but he’s also an insider — a longtime politician — whereas Trump is an outsider. I believe in Trump’s message of putting the country first and his economic policies. I don’t want to pay more taxes.”
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