Trump’s phony appeal to blacks

Against track record of bigotry, his pitch rings laughably hollow

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE Donald Trump is a Machiavellian lout whose overblown xenophobic tendencies have lately inveighed upon race — specifically black Americans.

His bullying of black people began recently with his speech to a largely white audience in Wisconsin two weeks ago, following the riots in Milwaukee after the death of a black man by the police. It escalated last week when Trump said blacks didn’t have “anything to lose” if they gave him and the Republicans their vote in November. He amped up this already high octane racial rhetoric on Wednesday by calling Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton a “bigot” while accusing Democrats of political duplicity toward blacks. He said Thursday that Democratic policies “hurt African-Americans.”

“She has been extremely, extremely bad for African-Americans,” Trump said of Clinton in a speech last week in Manchester, New Hampshire.

But blacks are not buying what the toxic Trump is selling.

His sudden appeal to black Americans is perceived by them as facile, a manufactured appeal to a constituency which has long divested of his legitimacy. Trump is an anathema in black America. He is deemed a tribune of anti-Obama sentiment, a bane to progressive, multi-cultural politics who prefers every opportunity to spur racial venom.

More than this, blacks consider Trump politically odious, a civic acid on pluralistic public aspirations. His consistent negative statements about non-white Americans, women, Muslims and the disabled, which polarize citizens based on color, religion, creed, gender, and more, have served as a litmus test for black Americans.

Shamefully, at the very heart of Trump’s recent comments about race and black America is cynicism and a deeply flawed understanding of our country’s racial history. Unabashedly, he employs a false concern for blacks as a means to attract Republican moderates and women into his embarrassingly soiled tent.

Polls consistently indicate how unattractive Trump is among black voters. A NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll last month revealed that only 6 percent of black voters are favorable to Trump. That’s a poorer showing than Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney registered among African-Americans when they ran against Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. According to a FiveThirtyEight analysis this month, when it comes to black support, Trump is polling behind every Republican nominee since 1948.

Indeed, Trump’s pandering towards blacks descends to the level of condescension. How can he reposition himself favorably towards blacks after questioning the legitimacy of President Obama’s citizenship? How does he rebound among blacks from a Department of Justice lawsuit claiming he engaged in housing discrimination in New York during the 1970s? How does he believe he can lure blacks back to the party of Lincoln after suggesting economic tax policies that would effectively broaden income inequality and exacerbate the racial divide?

Sadly, Trump is the Elmer Gantry of a party that has lost its way to a liturgy of hatred, dissembling, and negative nativist angst, a party which now fails to appeal to the broader electoral sensibility of average voters. He is an evangelist of America’s worst ways as it pertains to race, a provocateur who poses as politician, a prophet of prevarication who appeals to our baser public habits.

“He says he wants to make America great again. But what he really wants to do is make America hate again,” said Clinton, responding to Trump’s recent racial harangues.

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Clinton is right. A Trump America could result in returning to a time where blacks were relegated to second-class citizenship, where their civic status and electoral enfranchisement were roundly abrogated.

It is a cliche, but true: Race is the third rail of American politics.Trump’s waywardness and indifference to racial progress has stirred up sentiment in the country that has been long dormant. Trump’s acerbic race talk has lessened the republic and threatens to reverse so much of the progress on diversity we believed we had made.

Kevin Peterson is a democracy activist and founder of the New Democracy Coalition.