Monday, August 22, 2016
Donald Trump has a major problem with African American voters. The latest national polls show him with just 1% support among blacks. That's virtually zero. Think about that for a second. A 2016 presidential nominee has zero support within a community that represents 14% of the total U.S. population, or about 46-million voters. Even the utterly elitist, tone-deaf Mitt Romney received 6% of the black vote in 2012.
To achieve this astounding near-zero standing, Trump's campaign appears to have masterfully executed a unique 3-point plan: (1) disengagement (absolutely no outreach to blacks); (2) indifference (no substantive policy proposals to help blacks on any socio-economic level); and (3) insults (a consistent pattern of making outrageously offensive, racist statements).
Trump's racist campaign began in 2011 when he led a racially-charged Birther movement designed to delegitimize Barack Obama's presidency (although many would argue that it started about 45 years ago when the U.S. Justice Department sued Trump twice for refusing to rent apartments to blacks). He's also reportedly claimed that blacks are "lazy." There are accusations that black workers were routinely removed from the floor of his Atlantic City casinos before his arrival. And he's been criticized for stoking the flames of bigotry in 1989 with his media campaign against the Central Park Five; black youths accused, convicted and ultimately exonerated in the brutal rape attack of a female jogger.
Since officially becoming a candidate for president in June 2015, Trump has ratcheted up his racist behavior to unthinkable levels. He refers to African-Americans as "the blacks." Asked "Where's my African American?" at a rally. Encouraged violence against a black protestor at another rally. Offered to pay legal expenses for a white supporter who sucker-punched a black protestor. Lied about knowing the KKK's David Duke and refused to disavow the racist organization or its former Grand Wizard. And frequently re-Tweeted white supremacy
The black community doesn't exist in Trump's elitist, billionaire purview. Blacks are not his equals and aren't worthy of his time. He's refused to attend the annual NAACP convention and turned down countless other invites to meet with black voters in their neighborhoods, at churches, at historically black colleges and universities or at scheduled town halls where he can address their comments, complaints and questions face-to-face.
Trump's insensitivity towards the black community was on full display yet again during a rally Friday in Dimondale, Michigan, a predominantly white suburb of Lansing. Speaking before a typically all-white audience, Trump urged blacks to vote for him:
"You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed -- what the hell do you have to lose?"
Trump's latest comment is outrageously offensive for a couple of reasons. He provided no substantive basis for blacks to vote for him, offering no economic, education, health or environmental policy proposals. And more so, his remarks encapsulate his overall view of blacks as poor, unemployed, violent 'hood-living idiots who'd believe that their lives are so dreary that they can't possibly do any worse with him as president. It proved yet again that when it comes to understanding African-Americans, Trump is utterly tone-deaf and out of touch.
Whenever Trump speaks of blacks it's limited to those afflicted by poverty and the judicial system. The struggling underclass (in Trumpspeak, that means 'lazy, shiftless, welfare criminals'). In his speech Friday he didn't speak to the systemic, institutional racism that affects blacks from all walks of life. He didn't acknowledge the challenges faced by black students applying to Ivy League universities. Or those faced by black lawyers trying to get hired by or make partner at the country's most prestigious law firms. He didn't offer any solutions for fighting discrimination against blacks seeking to buy homes in elite white neighborhoods. Nor did he lament that no African-American has been nominated for an Academy Award in two years.
To be sure, there's no 'America' to Trump. There's white America and black America. And black America is clearly something he knows nothing about, and appears to care about even less. Which is why he can lump an entire race of people into one sorry-ass stereotypical bucket and then claim they "have nothing to lose" by voting for him. It's precisely this ignorant, myopic view of African-Americans that's responsible for his staggering, unprecedented unpopularity among them. The truth is, he'd do better with blacks if he simply stopped talking about them.
Trump's overall "Make America Great Again" message appears to only be resonating with voters who long for the good old days when white men controlled America's wealth and power. His core support comes exclusively from angry old white blue-collar males. Trump can't win in November with just this narrow group of uneducated, disaffected, bigoted voters. And while the candidate himself knows it, he can't control his worst impulses, which keep pushing the Oval Office further and further away. Lately, Trump appears exhausted, frustrated and desperate, which is why this week he made his third leadership change in the past sixty days and only gives interviews to Fox News "surrogates" like Sean Hannity.
This week's major shake-up saw campaign manager Paul Manafort replaced by consultant and pollster Kellyann Conway (Manafort took the new title of campaign "chair," but resigned a day later). Machiavellian bully Stephen Bannon, head of hyper-conservative Breitbart News, was brought in as campaign "CEO." The Trump "pivot" was promised, and it appeared for a day that maybe it had finally arrived. But then Trump once again went off script in Michigan and did what he does best: insult people.
Conway certainly has her hands full. She's a woman co-captaining a sinking ship with a bunch of sexists (including Fox News' former Sexual-Harasser-in-Chief Roger Ailes) who likely respect her opinions as much as they do those of any other female. And with Trump she has the unenviable task of trying to reverse decades of colossal douchebaggery. I don't think at this point in the campaign homestretch that anyone believes anymore that "Let Trump Be Trump" is a winning strategy.