Trump manages to stumble in pitch for black vote

By Philip Bump analysis

Donald Trump arrives onstage to speak at a rally in Dimondale. Photo / AP
Donald Trump arrives onstage to speak at a rally in Dimondale. Photo / AP

At a rally on Saturday in Dimondale, Michigan, Donald Trump repeated a version of a plea to black voters that he'd offered 24 hours earlier in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"No group in America has been more harmed by Hillary Clinton's policies than African-Americans," he said.

"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."

Trump was speaking from a city 90 minutes away from Detroit with a population that is 93 per cent white.

"Look at how much African-American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose? You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 per cent 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.

Consider: The unemployment rate in the black community is higher than that in the white community. Among young blacks, though, the figure is not 59 per cent - unless you consider not the labour force but every young black American, including students.

Black voters have consistently voted Democratic, a party that is one-fifth black and which since 1964 has elected the vast majority of the black members of Congress. Democrats win the support of black voters consistently because those voters like the work that they do and like the fights that they fight.

In the battle between Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump consistently lands in the low-single-digits of support from black Americans. Four-in-five blacks have a very unfavourable view of Trump, with a slightly higher percentage, 83 per cent, agreeing with the idea that he is biased against women and minorities. Eighty-seven per cent of black voters surveyed in the most recent Washington Post poll indicated that they would be anxious if he were elected and only 6 per cent "comfortable". The numbers for Clinton were nearly completely flipped.

There are any number of reasons that black Americans might view Trump unfavourably, starting with his 2011 effort to cast suspicion on President Barack 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.

It's likely that Trump's 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 party, Trump is trying to convince Republicans he wants or can earn the black vote. A fifth of Republican men and a quarter of Republican women in the poll said that Trump is biased against women and minorities. Maybe this is an attempt to get them to see him as doing real outreach, even if he isn't.

- Washington Post

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