Trump Uses Bogus Black Outreach to Reach Out to White Voters
Over the past few days, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump received the equivalent of a Little League participation trophy. Some in the press lavished praise on the "new Trump" for offering an ersatz apology to no one in particular for nothing specific. Then the man who has the lowest approval ratings from African-American voters in modern political history earned kudos for his "outreach" to black voters. Former New York Mayor and Trump water carrier Rudy Giuliani called his addresses "the best" that "any Republican, at the least, has ever given."
But the target of Donald Trump's speeches to virtually all-white audiences in lily white towns like West Bend, Wisconsin and Dimondale, Michigan wasn't the African-American electorate that will doubtless deliver at least 90 percent of its vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton. No, Trump as ever was sending a message to white folks. To that handful of suburban voters desperate for any sign that his incendiary and racist rhetoric hadn't already placed him beyond the pale, The Donald was trying to present the façade of newly-found empathy. Far more important, Trump cynically recited a litany of sick stereotypes and pretend pathologies of African-Americans to stoke the burning racial resentment of his snow white base.
Why else would Donald Trump bash black voters he was supposedly trying to embrace? In the 93 percent white town of Dimondale, Trump spoke at and about overwhelmingly black Detroit almost an hour and a half away:
"You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. 58% of your youth in unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?"
Philip Gourevitch summed up Trump's pitch to African-American voters, "I look at you & see an unimaginable nightmare--so abominable & desperate that you might as well vote for me." As Trump's comments to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on Saturday showed, Gourevitch wasn't exaggerating:
"It's just a like a total catastrophe, the unemployment rates, everything is bad, no healthcare, no education, no anything, and poverty is unbelievable."
Now, there are just two problems for the man who has long boasted that "I have a great relationship with the blacks." For starters, as Philip Bump pointed out in the Washington Post, virtually noting Trump said was true:
Black Americans are not "living in poverty" as a general rule. A quarter of the black population is, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about the same as the percentage of Hispanics. In Michigan, the figure is slightly higher. Most black Americans don't live in poverty, just as most white Americans don't.
Fifty years ago, 41 percent of African-Americans lived in poverty. Now, "the black poverty rate is too high but most blacks, more than 72%, do not live in poverty," ThinkProgress explained, adding, "The black unemployment rate is too high but 92% of blacks in the labor force have jobs."
But there's another fallacy in Trump's tall tale of African-American despair and hopelessness. As a recent survey from the Pew Research Center revealed (see chart above), blacks are the most upbeat of any American demographic group about the progress the United States has made over the past 50 years.
About eight-in-ten (81%) Trump backers say that things have gotten worse for people like them compared with 50 years ago. Just 19% of Clinton supporters say the same. A 59% majority of Clinton supporters say life is better for people like them; only 11% of Trump voters think this...
As was the case earlier this year, there are significant demographic differences in these views. About half (51%) of black voters say life is better today for people like them and just 20% say it is worse (23% say it is about the same). By contrast, white voters are more likely to say life has gotten worse (52%) than say it has gotten better (33%); 12% say it is little different. Hispanics are divided on this question: 4o% say life is better for people like them than it was a half-century ago, while about as many (39%) say it is worse (17% say it is about the same).
Donald Trump isn't the first to resort to crass stereotyping by equating African-Americans with poverty or lamenting that "the inner cities are so bad." Before he became Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) decried "makers and takers" turning "the safety net into a hammock," especially those "generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work" who could be found "in our inner cities." But as I documented last year, the data show that the typical face of American poverty is rural, Southern and white.
But for Donald Trump, speaking the truth about African-Americans doesn't matter because he's not speaking to them. (Unlike Trump, in 2012 Mitt Romney at least addressed the NAACP, even if his motivation was similarly cynical.) Instead, Trump is telling tales designed to mollify some white voters who don't support him while firing up those who already do. (The greatest predictor of someone's support for Trump, after all, is whether they believe Barack Obama is a Muslim.) Just ask his new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. As she explained to ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday:
"Those comments are for all Americans. And I live in a white community. I'm white. I was very moved by his comment. In other words, he is trying to tell Americans that we can do better."
Better at the polls on November 8, that is, if Trump's melanin-challenged base gets out to vote.