Republicans have been trying to sort out why black people tend not to vote for their presidential candidates since they got annihilated in 2008 and then again in 2012. Nowhere is their deficit more pronounced than in Detroit which has a population that is 83% African American. In 2008, 98% of Detroit voters voted for Democrat Barack Obama. In 2014, he got 97% of the vote. Being a black candidate certainly helped, of course, but it’s the fact that Republicans have little to nothing to offer African American voters that is most responsible.
In December of 2013, Republican Rand Paul came to Detroit to open their first “African American Engagement Office”. It went about as you would expect. He made a brief speech at the office which was stacked with lots of black faces. Then he traveled a short distance away to give a more public speech and the audience was over 90% white people. Rand Paul’s message was that Republicans need to reach out to black people more but had almost nothing to offer in terms of policy other than reducing regulation and lowering taxes. When you are addressing a group of people who live in some of the most polluted zip codes in the country and where poverty is so high that taxes simply aren’t an issue, these are not particularly compelling arguments.
During his last appearance in Michigan, Donald Trump went to the lily-white community of Dimondale to ask black people “What the hell do you have to lose?” in voting for him. “You live in poverty,” he said. “Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. What the hell do you have to lose?” I’m pretty sure the folks in Detroit and other majority black communities couldn’t hear him from Dimondale. And, even if they could, I’m not sure telling them how hellish their existence is was the right approach.
This weekend, Donald Trump is going to give it another shot, this time in Detroit where he’ll tape a television interview at a predominantly black church Great Faith Ministries International. It’s his first time in front of a mostly-black audience and it’s clear he has some ‘splainin’ to do.
To date, Trump has offered little more to the African American community than Rand Paul offered almost years ago. In fact, his claim that he could solve violence in America by having police “being very much tougher than they are right now” is likely to solidify his lack of support from African Americans who are the main victims of police violence in the USA.
It’s no surprise Trump isn’t holding a rally in Detroit. He only does that when he is certain he’ll draw large crowds. A Detroit rally could well draw more protesters than rally goers.
But, let’s be honest. Trump’s appearance in Detroit isn’t a sincere attempt to woo black voters. His messaging so far and anything he’s likely to say in Detroit is not intended for blacks, it’s intended for potential white supporters. It’s his way of reassuring white voters that he’s not a racist bigot despite all evidence to the contrary.
No word on whether or not Trump will bring “his African American” to the event.
By the way, the Clinton campaign answered Trump’s question as to “what in the hell” black voters have to lose quite effectively with a single word: Everything.