Monday, August 22, 2016

Trump jiving about connecting to black people


The remains of  a gas station torched during civil unrest in Milwaukee
What a funny way Donald Trump has of reaching out to black people. The Republican presidential nominee came to Milwaukee and, skirting black neighborhoods, drove out to the lily-white suburb of West Bend to urge African Americans to vote for him – a perplexing pattern he has since repeated in Michigan and North Carolina.

In the West Bend speech he accused Hillary Clinton of “talking down” to African Americans. But what do you call lecturing people without even bothering to look them in the eye? In contrast, Clinton talks face to face with African Americans.

The real estate tycoon could have done so, too. Coming to town in the wake of the turmoil in the Sherman Park neighborhood, where businesses were torched, he could have met with, say, business owners there – a gesture that would have packed more meaning than the empty, albeit clamorous, rhetoric that he spewed in West Bend.

Trump’s black support barely registers in the polls. He’s clocking in at one to two percent – the worst showing ever for a GOP standard bearer. So it’s understandable he would want to boost those numbers. But the bizarre way he’s going about doing it makes you wonder: What’s his game?

There is a history here. The GOP is, as Trump himself has reminded us, the party of Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves. Thus, black people were solidly Republican after the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, though, drew most African Americans to the Democratic Party. Still, a sizable minority remained loyal to the GOP.

Richard Nixon fixed that, adopting what’s known as the “Southern strategy,” which involved winning office by appealing to whites turned off by the Democratic Party’s embrace of the civil rights agenda. The strategy chased many of the black loyalists out of the Republican Party. But the thinking was that the party gained far more in white votes than it lost in black votes.

That thinking was correct, with an emphasis on “was.” Now, due to racial changes in the population, that strategy causes more losses than gains – the reason why wise men and women of the party have called for a shift away from the strategy.

They face a major roadblock, however. Remember the white voters the party drew by appealing to anti-black sentiment. Well, now those voters make up a vital part of the Republican base, and they like the Southern strategy just fine, thank you. Immigration reform? No way, José. (Anti-black people tend to be anti-brown, too.)

Trump has exploited this ambivalence in the Republican Party. Rather than abandoning the Southern strategy, he has doubled down on it. For instance, thrilling the Republican base, the reality show star has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants and the erection of a wall along the Mexican border and, of late, has insinuated that black people cheat at the polls. No wonder his candidacy cheers white supremacists, like former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke.

Protesters greeting Trump at a stop he made in downtown
Milwaukee for an interview with Fox News talker Sean
Hannity, before the candidate's trip to West Bend
The Southern strategy, America learned, still has enough juice to win the Republican presidential nomination, but at a high cost: It chases away so many people of color and fair-minded whites that it imperils victory in the general election.

So Trump comes to a white suburb in the hypersegregated Milwaukee area to connect with black voters. His rhetoric thuds false. A true dialog would take place face to face, and it must begin with an apology from the showman about his fanning racial fears for political gain.

After all, many African Americans have a hard time forgetting that Trump helped lead the charge to foist an aura of illegitimacy onto America’s first black president. Trump noisily demanded to see Barack Obama’s birth certificate, as if the commander-in-chief was an alien who must produce papers.
* * *
A note to readers
Helping to open and run an art gallery took me away from this blog for several years. But I'm back now. I'm continuing with the gallery, but I think I'm more adept at juggling.


  1. Glad to see you back at the keyboard, old friend.
    Here's what's struck me about Trump's non-reaching-out gestures to African Americans. Perhaps someone else has already written about this somewhere, but I haven't seen it.

    I vividly remember news accounts of Ronald Reagan campaigning in the South Bronx in New York City in 1980 and a sound bite in which he's telling some skeptical residents -- perhaps even protesters -- to give him a chance. Now let's be clear -- Reagan could do the racist dog whistles as well as anyone (see Mississippi & states' rates), and his policies did little or nothing for the impoverished. But at least he (or his handlers) were smart enough to put a fig leaf on that by sending him *into* an African American community to make an appeal to those voters -- or, more likely, absolve white voters by *appearing* to make an appeal to AA voters. By contrast, Trump's strategy of pretending to court black votes through condescending messages before white voters is that much more nakedly a pose strictly for white consumption. See the last few grafs of Sunday's Washington Post story on Trump and the alt-right:

    1. Typo there -- that was supposed to be "states' RIGHTS"... not "rates"...

    2. A Trump apologist on a CNN panel either yesterday or the day before said the protests that greeted Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago in March justified the candidate not venturing into the black community. I wonder if Trump would approve of that twisted logic since it contradicts the tough-man image he's trying to project. He was scared off by college kids and now fear is keeping him from the black community? Anyhow, you make good points. And that Washington Post article is a good, relevant read.

  2. Greg--Excellent piece. Good to see you back in print!You are running an art gallery?? Am really interested in that.Please fill me in a bit. Cheers, Bill Sanders (

  3. Greg--I typoed my e-mail---it is Bill Sanders

    1. Thanks, Bill. And I'll send you an e-mail about the gallery later today. I'm rushing to open the gallery right now.