By Hastings Wyman –
In an effort to broaden his appeal to include more support from the African-American community, Donald Trump made a high-profile call for bringing more jobs and more cops to black neighborhoods. However, he painted his hoped-for-supporters with a broad brush. “You’re living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs… What the hell do you have to lose?” While he may have meant just the inner-city ghettos, he didn’t say that, at least at first, and his appeal has stirred more – not less – opposition to Trump among African Americans.
The majority of Americans of color are middle class, employed and educated, with at least a high school diploma. Twenty percent have a college degree or higher, a smaller share than whites, but significant nonetheless.
So when Trump’s “outreach” failed to recognize the achievements and diversity within the African-American community, he quickly antagonized the already-Democratic leadership among blacks. Moreover, he created suspicions that his intent was not to obtain black support, but to highlight the negative conditions in urban ghettos and thus appeal to anti-black prejudice.
State Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-GA), the dean of the Georgia House and a former state Democratic chair, tells SPR, “The way Trump has played this out – hurling an insult to the African American community, the doubling down on it, characterizing African Americans with poverty, poor schools and no jobs. It’s insulting and dismissive… We have jobs. Not all are in poverty. What schools is he talking about?” noting that there is a public school system for all. Smyre adds that Trump’s remarks “play to the fears of others. It’s a separation type of dialogue.”
His lack of a record of working with African Americans is also a problem for Trump’s “pivot.” State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-SC), a former state House Minority Leader, says “It’s a little too late for that kind of appeal, given Mr. Trump’s record of more than 40 years. You can’t discriminate against people of color – and he’s been sued for it – and trash-talk people of color” then ask for their support. “His record speaks for him. It is not one of inclusion or sensitivity toward people of color.”
Also in South Carolina, Charleston City Councilman Rod Williams sees Trump’s effort as “a back door way to try to gain white support; I see it as disingenuous.” Williams points out that Trump is “against gun control, minimum wages and the Affordable Care Act. All of these things that help the African American community, he’s against… It’s laughable that any African American would vote for him… If he wants to help black people shot down in Chicago or North Charleston, tell him to get those guns off the street.” He adds, “Blaming the plight of African-American people on Hillary Clinton is ridiculous.”
Dr. Silas Lee, New Orleans-based sociology professor and pollster, says that Trump’s appeal to black voters “certainly reflects that he doesn’t understand the diversity of African Americans. He paints African Americans as a monolith that is dysfunctional, prone to deviant behavior and violence, and not reflective of the values of our society.”
Trump forgets “that people have a memory and that African Americans are smart,” noting Trump’s “insult to President Obama” with his avid support for the Birther Movement, which contended Obama was born abroad. Lee adds that Trump “can’t point to anything he’s done that reflects his recent promises… What has he done that would warrant us giving him a chance?”
Lee minces no words in characterizing Trump: “His misogyny and braggadocio speak to male privilege. The opposite of political correctness is to be politically incorrect, to have the privilege of marginalizing and labeling people he does not respect as individuals. He’s the reincarnation of George Wallace.”
Others, mainly whites, have speculated that Trump’s admittedly bungled attempt to appeal to black voters was calculated to make him appear more tolerant, thus helping him with independent white voters who do not want to be associated with racism.
Whatever his intent, Trump has made no inroads into the nation’s African-American community with his new stance; indeed, he may have lessened his already thin support – 5% or less — among black voters. Moreover, his raising of the issue, coupled with Clinton’s fiery response linking him to the Ku Klux Klan, have had the effect of turning an already vicious campaign into a hyper-racially charged exercise, one that is not good for Trump, Clinton or the nation.