Donald Trump smiles as he participates in a roundtable discussion on national security on Wednesday at his offices in Trump Tower in New York. (Gerald Herbert/AP)
At a rally Friday night in Dimondale, Mich., Donald Trump repeated a version of a plea to black voters that he’d offered 24 hours earlier in North Carolina.
“No group in America has been more harmed by Hillary Clinton’s policies than African Americans,” he said, apparently pointing to individuals in the crowd. “No group. No group. If Hillary Clinton’s goal was to inflict pain to the African American community, she could not have done a better job. It is a disgrace.”
“Detroit tops the list of most dangerous cities in terms of violent crime, number one,” he said from a city 90 minutes away from Detroit with a population that is 93 percent white. “This is the legacy of the Democratic politicians who have run this city. This is the result of the policy agenda embraced by crooked Hillary Clinton.”
He went on.
Trump to African Americans: ‘What do you have to lose’ by voting for me?
Trump says, “No group in America has been more harmed by Hillary Clinton’s policies than African Americans.” (The Washington Post)
“The only way to change results is to change leadership. We can never fix our problems by relying on the same politicians who created our problems in the first place. A new future requires brand new leadership,” he said.
“Look at how much African American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?” he asked. “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
This was not the Teleprompter Trump that we saw in Charlotte, interlacing his prepared remarks with occasional asides. This was Traditional Trump, riffing a bit more on what he wanted to say in a manner that probably didn’t do him much good.
Consider: 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.
Consider: The unemployment rate in the black community is higher than that in the white community, as it has been since the Department of Labor started keeping track. Among young blacks, though, the figure is not 59 percent — unless (as PolitiFact noted) you consider not the labor force but every young black American, including high school students. Many young black high school students are unemployed. This isn’t a metric that Labor typically uses, for obvious reasons, but calculating the rates for young whites gives you about 50 percent, too.
Consider: Black voters are perfectly able to evaluate candidates on qualities other than their political parties. Black voters began supporting the Democratic Party heavily thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since then, they have consistently voted for the party — a party that is one-fifth black and which since 1964 has elected the vast majority of the black members of Congress. (This line of argument from Al Sharpton in 2004 is worth a read.) Democrats win the support of black voters consistently because those voters like the work that they do and like the fights that they fight.
When President Obama won reelection in 2012, 93 percent of black Americans thought he was doing a good job. That’s also the percentage of the vote he received, according to exit polls, beating Mitt Romney by 87 points.
And yet, somehow, Trump is doing worse.
In the battle between Trump and Clinton, he consistently lands in the low-single-digits of support from black Americans. In some polls, he has received 0 percent support, a negligible amount. In our most recent survey, he got 2 percent support.
Why? Because nonwhite voters view Trump very unfavorably. We wrote about this in June, but can now update the numbers. Four-in-5 blacks have a very unfavorable view of Trump, with a slightly higher percentage, 83 percent, agreeing with the idea that he is biased against women and minorities. Eighty-seven percent of black voters we surveyed indicated that they would be anxious if he were elected president and only 6 percent “comfortable.” The numbers for Clinton — who very quickly tweeted that Trump’s Michigan comments were “so ignorant it’s staggering” — were nearly completely flipped.
There are any number of reasons that black Americans might view Trump unfavorably, starting with his 2011 effort to cast suspicion on Obama’s place of birth. Or, probably, starting with his full-page ad calling for the death penalty against five black teenagers in New York City who were accused of rape — wrongly, as it turned out. Or perhaps thanks to the support his current candidacy is getting from people like former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
There’s no reason to think that Donald Trump’s suggestion that black Americans had “nothing to lose” because they “are living in poverty” will do anything to reverse that trend. Nor was his insistence in North Carolina that he should get votes from black voters because “the inner cities are so bad.” Some black people, research shows, live in places beside the “inner city.”
So why make the argument? It could be, simply enough, that Trump doesn’t have anyone in his inner circle that can provide a sense of how to reach out to the black community. One adviser said on CNN that the fact Trump made his appeal in a mostly white town wasn’t a big deal, and that “maybe it would have been nice if he went and had a backdrop with a burning car.” Or maybe Trump was listening to Ben Carson, who in May made a similar argument for Trump: He would only be president for four years, so what could go wrong?
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It’s likely that Trump’s continuing lack of meaningful outreach to black voters keeps him from understanding effective ways of arguing his case. When he went to Baton Rouge to see flood damage, he stopped at a Baptist church with a mostly-white congregation.
Or maybe black voters aren’t his intended audience. Maybe, with his poll numbers low thanks to soft support from his own party, Trump is trying to convince Republicans that he wants or can earn the black vote. In our most recent poll, a fifth of Republican men and a quarter of Republican women agreed with the statement that Trump is biased against women and minorities. He gets 90 and 80 percent of the vote from those groups, respectively. Maybe this is an attempt to get them to see him as doing real outreach, even if he isn’t.
Of all of the claims that Trump made on Friday night, though, perhaps none is as laughable as his ultimate prediction.
“At the end of four years, I guarantee you, that I will get over 95 percent of the African American vote,” he said. “I will produce for the inner cities, and I will produce for the African Americans. The Democrats will not produce, and all they’ve done is taken advantage of your vote. That’s they’ve done. And once the election’s over, they go back to their palaces in Washington, and you know what, they do nothing for you, just remember it.”
Black voters will not give Donald Trump 95 percent of the vote should he be up for reelection in 2020. If he got 25 percent of the vote from black Americans, it would be remarkable. And unless he convinces his own party to support his candidacy, the only one returning to a golden palace after Election Day will be Donald Trump.