When it comes to courting black voters, Donald Trump’s strategy has been strangely counterintuitive for a man who says he’s trying to…court black voters.
With just over two months remaining until Americans hit the polls, Trump is expected to visit a large group of real-life black people at a real-life black church (assuming any black people show up) for the first time this weekend in Detroit.
However, it won’t be the first time the Republican nominee has addressed black voters. In recent speeches, he’s bragged about how black people will vote for him—but to overwhelmingly white crowds at his rallies, not to, you know, actual black people whose votes he’s “trying” to get.
Despite a recent poll that says Trump has a 0% favorability rating among African American voters, he loves to talk a big game about his broad support in black communities. Last year, the businessman even said he expects to win “the African American vote.” But many of his high-profile black supporters have dubious reputations; they include Diamond and Silk, the sister duo who stump full-time for the presidential hopeful, but have been pressed about whether they’re being paid by his campaign; a black pastor who posted a cartoon of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in blackface; scandal-plagued boxing promoter Don King; and King’s equally scandal-ridden ex-client Mike Tyson.
Since Trump’s efforts to win the support of black voters have been circuitous at best, it raises the question: Is this guy actually trying to get black people to vote for him, or is he doing something else entirely?
First off, Trump is paradoxically trying to sell to black Americans the same hardline “law and order” talk he peppered throughout his Republican National Convention acceptance speech and frequently spouts at his all-white rallies. During the speech, Trump repeated the phrase four times, promising to “restore law and order” to places like Baton Rouge, LA, where a gunman who wanted to “kill white people” fatally shot three police officers. However, he failed to acknowledge that Baton Rouge police fatally shot Alton Sterling, a black man, at point-blank range just one week earlier.
Trump has also expressed his desire to “stop the slaughter” in black communities by restoring law and order. On Saturday, he tweeted this message after the shooting death of basketball star Dwyane Wade’s cousin Nykea Aldridge:
Here, Trump is linking Aldridge’s death to black-on-black crime, while (delusionally) expecting the black community to be receptive to such a racist view. At a recent rally in Ohio, the GOP nominee took the same perplexing approach.
“Look, it is a disaster the way African Americans are living,” he said. “We’ll get rid of the crime. You’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.”
It’s almost as if Trump is only pretending to court black voters to pacify Republicans who are still somewhat concerned with their party’s reputation. And while GOP politicians haven’t pursued black voters in recent years—in fact, most fled the party five decades ago—at least establishment Republicans didn’t hesitate to disavow an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
So, what exactly has Trump done to appeal to black voters? Nothing yet. He’s turned down or ignored invitations from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and historically black colleges. And in March, Trump canceled an appearance in Chicago, where the black population is 33%, to avoid potentially violent protesters.
This weekend’s visit to Detroit will be his second of the election season. Several weeks ago, Trump visited the city, where the black population is 83%; however, he flew there on a private plane to address a group that was “heavily white,” according to The New York Times.
This time, Trump will speak directly to black voters, but nothing he says will likely change their minds. Indeed, the Republican nominee might just end up appealing to white people while he’s talking to black people.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the strange things Trump has done to attract black voters so far:
- That time he addressed black voters to white people in a white city in Wisconsin.
- That time Trump addressed black voters while speaking to a white crowd and asked them, “What do you have to lose?”
- That time he said this on CNN: "I'm going to do great with the African Americans. African-American youth is 58% unemployed. African Americans in their prime are substantially worse off, you know, economically than a—than the whites in their prime. And it's very—it's a very sad situation.”
- That time he said this about a black protester at one of his rallies: "Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing."
- That time he retweeted crime stats about black people that were very, very wrong.
Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.