Nearly a year after a gay freelance hairstylist living in Harlem posted a Facebook video repudiating the Democratic Party, Brandon Straka found himself in Trump Tower on Thursday speaking with Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and a senior campaign adviser.
He was there to record a new video, this time for Donald Trump’s campaign Facebook page, trumpeting his efforts to convince people who identify as minorities — blacks, Latinos, gays, lesbians and the transgender — that they need to “walk away” from Democrats, who he argues belong to a party of “rage, hate and lies.”
That idea, spread on Fox News programs and conservative social media, is emerging as a central argument of the Trump reelection campaign’s efforts to win over minority communities and blunt attacks on Trump for having used racially divisive rhetoric and pushed policies that discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
The tactic also marks a shift for the Republican Party’s outreach efforts. In the 2000s, two Republican National Committee chairmen admitted and apologized for the “Southern strategy,” a GOP effort to win white voters by appealing to racial polarization. After the 2012 election, Republican leaders argued for a more compassionate appeal to minorities and women, including a carefully crafted tone to appeal to Hispanics and support for “comprehensive immigration reform.”
Activists like Straka, by contrast, argue that there is no longer any intentional oppression of minorities in the United States and that much of the accepted political history in the country, particularly around racial issues, is wrong.
A video promoted by his group, the WalkAway Campaign, includes testimony from black voters who describe the Democratic Party as a historic promoter of the Ku Klux Klan and make the false claims that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican and that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his wife “were huge slavery abolishment activists.” One testimonial argues that Democrats are “picking illegal immigrants over black people.”