Democrats can't beat Trump, says America's first black billionaire

Bob Johnson says party has moved 'too far left' and praises president's corporate tax rate

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 29 November 2019 22:25 GMT
Billionaire Bob Johnson: 2020 election is Trump's to lose

America's first black billionaire and founder of the BET television network doesn't believe any of the current Democratic challengers are capable of defeating Donald Trump in 2020.

Bob Johnson told CNBC that the president "has always been at a position" where the election is "his to lose".

"He's bringing a sort of disruptive force into what would be called political norms", Mr Johnson added. "I don't care whether it's the way he conducts foreign policy, the way he takes on the government agencies, the way he deals with immigration, he brings his style."

He warned that Democrats from the crowded primary field should "be careful" and "not get caught up with stylistic Trump" but "substantive Trump".

Mr Johnson doesn't believe any Democrat is "enough in the centre" where he believes "most voters are".

Earlier this year, he told CNBC that the Democratic party "has moved too far left" and praised the president's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which dramatically lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent, effectively enriching companies and their owners while the administration promised a "trickle-down" effect that economists argue will not materialise.

His comments drew criticism from black voter groups asserting that Mr Johnson speaks on behalf of millionaires and billionaires, not as a voice for working-class black voters.

"For him, to make a statement that this tax break has been helpful for black people — where has he been? Under a rock?" LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told The Washington Post. "There's all kind of reports that have come out that this tax benefit disproportionately benefited the wealthy and not the working class. In and of itself, to make that statement says to me that he's simply out of touch."

Mr Johnson has declined to say whether he plans to vote for Mr Trump – though he said he's not supporting any current Democrat – and told CNBC that "if an African American speaks up in a positive way about something good the president is doing, that in itself is a story, and not the facts".

The longtime Democrat sold his BET to Viacom in 2001 before founding the asset management firm RLJ Companies.

Following Mr Trump's election, Mr Johnson has visited the White House, where he says he was considered for a cabinet-level position within the Trump administration. He said he turned it down, deciding that "trying to work in a government structure where you got to go through 15 different layers of decision-making to get what you want done doesn't fit my mould".

Asked whether he supports fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who's the latest entry into the field of Democratic candidates, Mr Johnson said the former New York Mayor and ninth richest person in the US will be "willing to spend a lot of money to make the case for voters".

But, Mr Johnson said, "more important than money is the narrative" — particularly how Mr Bloomberg reintroduces himself to black voters and addresses his legacy as a "stop and frisk" proponent during his time as mayor.

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