My first inkling that a lot more blacks than I thought liked President Trump was during a discussion over dinner with a relative a couple of days before the 2016 presidential election. He flatly stated that he was voting for Trump. Dead silence was followed by loud outbursts of “no,” then a nonstop pillorying.
But he stuck to his guns, saying Trump appealed to him because he represented change. He thought he’d be good for small business and would cut taxes. It was a textbook Horatio Alger, laissez faire rationalization that would warm the heart of any conservative supply-side devotee.
My relative is a post-civil rights era forty-something small business owner. So Trump’s bogus pledge made sense to him. He was just the kind of guy who Trump loved to brag about voting for him. As it turned out, more than a few blacks did just that.
A new Rasmussen poll, if believed, shows just how right he was. According to the poll, an astounding one in three blacks said they approved of his performance. Now Rasmussen is a GOP-leaning poll. However, even if this staggering figure of black support is wrong, other polls, including an NAACP survey, show that Trump is doing a lot better than many thought he would among black voters.
Trump’s black approval numbers seem even more bizarre coming on the heels of the Omarosa Manigault Newman flap. The one-time loyalist has lambasted the president for being a vile and corrupt bigot, one who takes every opportunity to bad mouth blacks and civil rights organizations. She claims he has a near clinical loathing of Obama, and has done everything presidentially possible to batter job, housing, education, health care and civil rights programs. The seeming contradiction is that few African Americans have been more hectored for their Trump ties than her. Despite her revelations about Trump’s naked racism, Omarosa remains the black person many blacks love to despise.
In the run-up to the election in 2016, there were knowing nods when some polls showed that then-GOP presidential contender Trump would get none of the black vote. This seemed about right. Trump seemingly earned the goose egg with his horrendous record of slamming doors on blacks in his apartment rentals, his relentless birther savaging of Obama, his nonstop trashing of the Central Park Five, his enthusiasm for stop and frisk, and racially tinged cracks made at rallies. But by the time of the election that 0 percent magically transformed into about 8 percent of the black vote.
The brutal reality is that thousands of blacks voted for Trump. He touched a tiny nerve with his claims that poor, underserved black neighborhoods are supposedly a mess with lousy public schools, high crime and violence, and chronic poverty. And he dumped the blame for that squarely on the Democrats who have run most of these cities for decades. Trump doubled down on that slam with a handful of carefully choreographed appearances with high-profile black preachers. This was just enough to take the hard edge off the almost-set-in-stone image of Trump as a guy with a white sheet under his blue suit.
There’s more irony here. Trump’s grudging criticism of white nationalists on the recent anniversary of their rampage in Charlottesville in 2017 drew howls from many blacks. This has been the pattern: Trump will tweet, say or sign something that hammers blacks and he’s roundly harangued.
Yet, at the same time, many blacks are working, have more income and appear to have improved their financial lot. Trump hollers every chance he gets that blacks are supposedly prospering like never before, and he’s the reason for that. Of course, this is a bald face lie that has been repeatedly debunked. But possession is nine-tenths of the law, and since he’s in possession of the Oval Office and the media bully pulpit, it’s a convincing sell to more than a few blacks.
The fact is, despite all the reasons why he’s more than earned the universal revulsion of blacks, a lot of people still like him. And any way you slice it, this is bad news for the Democrats.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of “The Al Sharpton Show” on Radio One and host of “The Hutchinson Report” on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.