Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The first inkling I got that a lot more blacks liked Trump than they dared let on was during a dinner table discussion with a relative a couple of days before the 2016 presidential election. He flatly said that he was voting for Trump. There was dead silence, shock, and then loud outbursts of “no” followed by non-stop pillorying of him. He stuck to his guns and said Trump appealed to him because he represented change and he thought he’d be good for small business and would cut taxes. It was a textbook Horatio Alger, laissez faire rationalization that would warm the heart of any conservative supply sider devotee.
He was a post-civil rights era, forty something, small business owner himself. So, this bogus line made much sense to him. He was just the kind of guy who Trump loved to brag about at every turn who would vote for him. As it turned out more than a few blacks did. A new Rasmussen poll if believed shows just how right he was. According to the poll an astounding one in three blacks say they approve of his performance. Now Rasmussen is a GOP-Trump leaning poll that always manages to show him doing better than just about any other poll in his approval ratings. However, even if the staggering figure of black support is wrong as sin, other polls including an NAACP survey all show that Trump is doing a lot better than many might think among blacks.
Trump’s black approval numbers seem even more bizarre, no contradictory, coming on the heels of the Omarosa flap. His one-time loyalist of loyalists has lambasted him all over the map for being a vile, corrupt, bigot, who takes ever opportunity to bad mouth blacks and civil rights organizations. She claims he has a near clinical loathing of Obama, and has done everything presidentially possible to batter job, housing, education, health care and civil right programs. The seeming contradiction is that few African-Americans have been more hectored for their Trump tie than her. Despite her revelations about Trump’s naked racism, she’s still the black that many blacks love to despise.
In the run up to the election in 2016, there was great laughter and knowing nods when some polls showed that then-GOP presidential contender Trump would get 0 percent of the black vote. This seemed about right. Trump seemingly earned and deserved the goose egg with his horrendous record of slamming the door on blacks in his apartment rentals, his relentless birther savaging of Obama, his non-stop trash of the Central Park Five, wild enthusiasm for stop and frisk, and his thinly disguised race-tinged cracks and digs at his rallies. But by the election that 0 percent of the black vote, magically transformed into some real numbers, about 8 percent of the black vote, that had some significance for the election.
The brutal reality is that as my relative did, thousands of blacks voted for Trump. He 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. And 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.
There’s more irony here. Trump’s grudging, kind of sort of tepid criticism of white nationalists after their rampage in Charlottesville in 2017 drew loud howls from nay blacks about Trump’s alleged closet white sheet. His refusal on the first anniversary of their rampage to condemn them by name again also drew the same loud howls from many blacks. This has been the continued pattern. Trump will tweet, say, or sign something that hammers blacks and he’s roundly harangued.
However, at the same moment, many blacks are working, have more income, and are in large and small ways appear to have improved their financial lot. Trump is there with his Big Brother presence in the media to holler every chance he gets that blacks are supposedly prospering like never before and he’s the reason for that. This bald face lie has been repeatedly debunked. Yet, possession is nine-tenths of the law, and since he’s in possession of the Oval Office and the media bully pulpit that comes with it, it’s a convincing sell to more than a few blacks.
Whether Rasmussen got it right or not with its stunning claim of hefty black Trump support is less important than this. Despite all the reasons why he’s more than earned the universal revulsion of blacks, a lot of them still like him. And, anyway you slice it, this is bad news for the Democrats.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Why Black Lives Do Matter (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.