First Baptist Church Town Hall Analyzes Political Situation In Era Of Trump

Panelists at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens’ Town Hall included, left to right, Cornell Belcher, Angela Rye, Joe Youngblood and U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.

The U.S Congress’s Black Caucus is likely to take a more “in your face” approach starting next year in dealing with any Republican attempts to roll back Progressive gains, an audience at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens was told Dec. 10.

The speaker was U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), who appeared at a town hall meeting at the Somerset Street church.

The town hall’s purpose was to assess what the 2016 presidential election meant for people of color in particular and Progressives in general. Joining Watson Coleman were panelists Angela Rye, a Democratic strategist and CNN commentator, and Cornell Belcher, a pollster who worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Moderating the panel was Joe Youngblood from Thomas Edison State University in Trenton.

Belcher’s assertion was that Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election because she could not hold the coalition that elected President Obama to two terms. He said that Donald Trump in 2016 pretty much replicated the results of Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

The reason for the defecting votes, Belcher said, was that some voters – mostly millennials – voted for third-party candidates.

That was partly due to an erroneous reading of polls by the media, Belcher said He said that the media portrayed the Trump/Clinton race as being a two-person race, in which Clinton held the advantage, when it was actually a four-person race, in which Clinton did not fare as well.

“The polls were pretty much accurate,” he said.

Millennials, he said, wanted to be “philosophically pure” in their voting, a mindset reinforced by their belief that Clinton did not need their help to win.

“I want to be philosophically pure, as well,” he said. “But when you are confronted with an existential threat, you can’t throw a temper tantrum.”

Rye said there were some things said by Trump that resonated with people of color, “and that is that Democrats have taken the votes of people of color for granted,” she said.

“We have to acknowledge the pain that was caused by the Democrats,” Rye said.

Rye said Clinton had more obstacles than just Trump to deal with.

“She was up against the Russians, she was up against voter intimidation laws, she was up against the FBI director and she was up against her gender,” she said.

Part of the program featured questions submitted by the audience. The last question fielded by Watson Coleman was about her thoughts on the role the Congressional Black Caucus will play in Congress going forward.

“I think you are gong to see the Congressional Black Caucus take a more proactive, in-your-face role,” she said. “You’re going to see a more active and robust black caucus leadership.”

Later in the program, two mayors – Eric Jackson of Trenton and Frank Minor of Logan Township – and Azra Baig, a member of the South Brunswick Board of Education, joined the panel.

Jackson said it is important that mayors “stand up for their constituents” because it is on the local level where the impact from polices developed in Washington, D.C. are felt.

“If we don’t come together now and create a state agenda of what is important to us,” he said, “Mr. Trump will be able to do a host of things that he wants to do.”

“This is a call for unity across our state,” he said. “We have to be prepared at the local level.”

Watson Coleman said there could be opportunities for Democrats and Republicans to work together on some issues because, he said, Trump’s policies will hurt the Republicans’ constituents as well.

“He made promises that he has no desire to keep, he made promises that he can’t keep,” she said. “His stuff isn’t that tight. He’s really all over the place.”

The Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries, FBCLG’s senior pastor, said that while people of color can complain about policies that may be coming down from the federal government, they must not forget to to work for progress in their communities.

“Don’t focus on what Mr. Trump is doing,” he said. “While we’re fighting against all the policies from the White House, it is incumbent upon us to identify something we can do for someone else and just do it.”

Soaries pointed to the period in American history before and after the Emancipation Proclamation, when people of color rose to great heights despite oppression from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

“Don’t tell me we’re stuck and we’re paralyzed,” he said. “If we could grow and learn and build when the KKK was trying to lynch us, we can survive and thrive under Donald Trump.”


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