I Sat Down For A Breakfast With Donald Trump To Discuss Inner Cities. Here's What Surprised Me.
Last month, the GOP invited a handful of RLI members from across the NYC metro area to a breakfast with Donald Trump. The RLI - Republican Leadership Initiative - is a city-focused grassroots initiative by the GOP aimed at engaging urban minority communities.
Sitting down with Donald Trump was both surprising and refreshing to me, because unlike candidates that I’ve met in the past, he was warm, engaging, and concerned. What struck me most is that he's actually interested in change. He actually cares about this country.
I think he's a little wedded to the "build a wall" idea more because it's become something that's funny and he likes putting his name on things. But that aside, the man that we sat down with cared more than I’ve seen from politicians in recent years. We talked about jobs and fixing inner-city problems. He found it eye-opening when I started explaining the American-Muslim landscape to him - specifically the fact that 25% of American Muslims are African-American. Only 24% are Arab and roughly 5% are Latino.
With jobs, we've got this gigantic NAFTA Dads problem where 25-to-55-year-olds who lost their job are unable to find themselves the opportunity or time to retrain themselves for new roles - if you add the NAFTA Moms to this mix, you've got roughly 50% of the people making $50,000 or less.
The job problem is also universal across race – there’s just a difference in between the races, inasmuch as that many inner-city African-Americans would rather identify with the positives of what exists in their lives than protest at rallies.
Obama created 12 million jobs in contrast to Reagan's 10 million, but the population of America is roughly double what it was when Reagan was in office. Inner-city communities don’t see the impact of this to the same degree as other segments of America.
Donald Trump poses for a picture with RLI members after the breakfast.
Donald Trump started to talk about the potential of implementing better education inside the prison system, so that when people come out there's less recidivism. We also discussed the challenges that exist with lending and micro-lending, identifying banking regulations that need to change.
For the record, while we were discussing these issues, Hillary planned an LGBTQ fundraiser on Wall Street with tickets as high as $250,000. If that doesn't say irony I don't know what does. You can’t say you’re the candidate of the people and continually do things that say the opposite. Most people, gay or straight, can’t even afford the $1,250 "economy class" ticket for that event.
What came out of our meeting with Trump was a visceral call for America. There has to be change. There has to be a policy shift. There has to be a program that enables Americans to grow out from the shadows of poverty.
This isn't just an inner-city issue - this is a small-town America issue where technology and automation are decimating many traditional jobs in this country. There are 3 million trucking jobs in this country right now. The first big automation - self-driving trucks - may kill 500,000 of those. When that starts, it will implode all of the support systems in all of the towns across middle-America. All of the diners; all the convenience stores; all of the people that depend on that kind of income will fall by the wayside.
Those people see the writing on the wall and they know that they need something that's going to allow them to pivot the same way folks in Corporate America can reinvent themselves when the market changes. We say one new tech job creates five support jobs. What happens when thousands of transportation jobs get automated?
America needs the options that we, the educated, are afforded - options that often times they don't have due to lack of access, technology, education or simply geography.
What Trump underscored is that we don't see solutions coming from Hillary. We see more of the same and that's what terrifies a lot of Americans. Because for that 50% of America that makes $50,000 or less - who may be living paycheck to paycheck - that's four years they can't afford.
Trump's silent majority is definitely there and after meeting him, I think it's growing every single day.