Earl Ofari Hutchinson
“Our Daily Presidential Tracking poll today shows Black Likely Voter approval of the job @realDonaldTrump is now over 40%.
— Rasmussen Reports (@Rasmussen_Poll) June 5, 2020”:
This was one of three news items in June that purports to back up Trump’s boast that he has a lot more Black support than anyone could ever believe. It raised more than a few eyebrows. The second was the panel of Black personalities and legislators who gushed over Trump and backed up his brag about his backing from Blacks. They ticked off a handful of policy initiatives on jobs and the criminal justice system reform that Trump allegedly accomplished that benefit Blacks. The panel was prominently played up by the ultra-conservative Washington Times.
Then there was Trump’s ill-fated Tulsa non-rally. A shot of several Blacks prominently seated near the stage at the rally went viral. The shot drew hundreds of comments on my Facebook page. Not all of them were unfavorable.
First, toss out the Rasmussen Poll. It’s the always Trump cheerleading Rasmussen. Trump’s alleged 40 percent favorability rating is part Trump propaganda, part delusional thinking, and all fantasy stuff. Then toss out the panel of Blacks. They are at the far fringe of Black politics, punditry, and celebrityhood. Their names are almost totally non-recognizable among most Blacks.
As for the photo-op shot of the Blacks at the Tulsa rally, two of them are well-known and well photo’d Trump Black operatives who regularly show up at all Trump events bedecked in MAGA Hats and wildly waving Trump banners.
However, what’s most interesting about all of this is why Trump has this near clinical obsession with Blacks. And why just enough Blacks feed it to make it not just newsworthy, but dangerously worrisome.
The brutal reality is that thousands of Blacks did vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Officially, his overall Black vote total was nearly 10 percent. This was marginally better than Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008 got. The shock is that he got any Black votes at all given his unabashed, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and horrendous history of race baiting Blacks. But he did. And there were reasons then and reasons he might get more than a few Black votes again.
Trump touched a tiny nerve with his shout that poor, underserved Black neighborhoods are supposedly a mess with lousy public schools, high crime and violence, and chronic joblessness and poverty. He dumped the blame for that squarely on the Democrats who run and have run most of these cities for decades. Trump doubled down on that slam with a handful of carefully choreographed appearances with high-profile Black preachers, at name Black churches. This was just enough to take the hard and sharp edge for some blacks off the almost-set-in-stone image of Trump as a guy with a white sheet under his suit.
He’s reruns of this act through most of his term. There’s his carefully choreographed photo-ops with some very handpicked Black preachers, entertainers, and athletes. He gave just enough sheen to his “I really do care about Blacks” con by signing on very belatedly to the Second Step Act crime reform bill, and pardoning a few high profile, much aggrieved Black prisoners. Until COVID struck, he could boast that Black joblessness had plunged to the lowest level in decades on his watch.
No matter how often anyone pointed out that the economic recovery and uptick in jobs began with Obama, the hard fact is Trump, not Obama, is the President. Sitting Presidents always get and take credit for any good economic news during their tenure no matter how undeserved and especially when their re-election is on the line.
In 2008, 2012, and 2016, Black GOP advocacy groups ran ads hammering the Democrats again for their alleged indifference to and outright aid and abet of Black suffering in the inner cities, and touting the GOP’s emphasis on small business, school choice, and family values as the best path to Black advancement. This pitch has always had some appeal to many Blacks. Though it would never trigger any kind of stampede to the GOP by even most of these conservative-leaning Blacks, it was enough to take some of the sting out of the GOP’s naked history of racial abuse.
Trump banks that this pitch will work again in 2020. With much fanfare, he set up a rump group, ”Blacks for Trump” last November. There’s one other X factor. That’s just how much ambivalence there is toward Biden that still festers among some Blacks over his backing of the Clinton Crime Bill, his alleged trash of Anita Hill, and his early opposition to Bussing. This sore spot could come into play. In a close-run race with Biden in the five or six states that will decide the White House another plunge in Black voter turnout and slight bump up in Black votes for Trump could spell trouble. Trump is the last guy on the planet who can claim to have done more for Blacks than any other President. But it’s less important that he uttered this patent lie, than that some Blacks believe it.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College: (Middle Passage Press) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network