Donald Trump’s attempts at minority outreach have not been going so well, if increasing his appeal to minorities was the goal. Polls have shown Trump fourth—behind Gary Johnson and Jill Stein—among black voters.
A Suffolk University poll released on September 1 had Trump at 2 percent nationally among black voters. In four polls in August Trump was at either 1 percent or 2 percent. In some swing states, he doesn’t even get to 0.5 percent with black voters. Among Latinos, Trump only wins 19 percent of the vote.
His overbearing language when he ad-libs, as when he compared inner cities to “war zones,” certainly isn’t helping. The first weekend in September he opted for a safer approach, visiting a black church in Detroit and taking prewritten questions with prepared answers, where his notes suggested he was going to call for working towards a color-blind society: “If we are to Make America Great Again, we must reduce, rather than highlight, issues of race in this country.”
Unfortunately, that is exactly the opposite of what Trump has spent most of his campaign doing. His divisive message, based on stoking racial and demographic fears, has attracted very public support from white supremacists and alt-right-ers. When racists like Jared Taylor record robocalls for Trump, Trump is reluctant to push back. He even seems to be courting the alt-right online, having regularly tweeted and retweeted white nationalist messages, including a tweet that included fabricated murder stats about African-Americans, a tweet that used an image that originated in a racist forum and associated Jews with corruption, and multiple retweets of #WhiteGenocide users.
Trump’s racially charged messages aren’t just online, on a platform that is becoming a big part of presidential communications, but also in person, in his own speech. Most famously, he attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel for two weeks as somehow being incapable of impartiality due to his Mexican ancestry—at times calling Curiel himself “Mexican.” He also said primary opponent Ted Cruz could not possibly be an evangelical because “not many evangelicals come out of Cuba,” and told the Republican Jewish Coalition they must be good at negotiating.
Why Do We Have a Special Standard for Trump?
This would all be bad enough on its own—a “racially divisive” presidential nominee is bad on its own merits. But what is even worse is the amount of genuinely good people and non-racists, many who believe deeply in the “color-blind” “non-hyphenated America” that conservatives like Bobby Jindal espouse, who have embraced the candidate or excused him. House Speaker Paul Ryan called one of Trump’s statements “the definition of racism” and denounced several others, but nonetheless, he continues to support the man.
There is a reluctance to make any judgment about what the continuing bigoted remarks coming from Trump, his campaign, and surrogates might say about Trump the man, even as many supporters say we should not be afraid of speaking the unvarnished truth just to avoid offending someone. Trump’s “Star of David” tweet came just a few days after Cruz held a hearing on the Obama administration’s refusal to use the words “radical Islam.” “You cannot fight an enemy that you do not acknowledge, that you pretend does not exist,” Cruz said.
So, the question for Republicans and conservatives is, how can we fight bigotry within the Republican Party, a problem that is both objectively bad for its impact on the country and practically bad for its impact on damaging the party’s brand, if we fail to acknowledge it? Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a racist for much less.
The strategies Republican Party brass have used to try to excuse some of these controversies show they are more interested in defending Trump than in fighting discrimination. Reince Priebus sought to deflect from a story about Trump’s alleged sexist behavior towards women by claiming it was “planted” by Hillary Clinton’s people, a fact that, if true, wouldn’t address the claims. Preibus downplayed the anti-Semitic tweet by arguing it was really a “sheriff’s star,” not the Star of David, an excuse that seems especially vapid to this author, who has seen his name featured in triple parentheses by the alt-right.
From ‘We Care’ to ‘Get Over It’
For Republicans to tell various minority groups time after time to get over it, that nothing’s happening, that it’s all just a big misunderstanding and Trump is being mistreated, must alienate members of those groups from the people who are making the excuses. For example, I know a Star of David when I see one, and I know what anti-Semitic language and imagery is, because I’ve had it sent to me en masse by people who think that I, my parents, and brothers, by virtue of our religion, are part of a globalist conspiracy to have politicians do Israel’s bidding and that America needs to #MakeAmericaGreat in order to stop it.
It doesn’t make me think Trump or Reince or others care when they don’t take the problem seriously enough to address it. So it’s no surprise to me that Trump only takes 23 percent of the Jewish vote in a Gallup poll conducted in late August (and Muslims, the religious group Trump has demonized the most, give him 9 percent).
Perhaps the Republican Party’s existing lack of diversity is part of the problem. So much bigotry goes on in spaces most people don’t see. The shop attendant in the store who eyes someone because of her race is only seen by that person and possibly a few other people nearby. Harsh police tactics in inner-city communities, whether due directly to race or perceived as such, are not experienced by those who don’t live there. White people rarely have to face being told to “get the f**k out” of their own country because of their skin color.
On Twitter in particular, so much abuse comes via @ messages usually only the recipient sees. That’s where people with Trump-haired elephants as their avatars tell Ben Shapiro to go “into the gas chamber” and then the publication whose CEO Trump hired to run his campaign publishes an article joking about it.
To Reach Out, You Need Ambassadors
It’s not necessarily expected for gentiles to immediately see a Star of David and the connotations behind claims of corruption, but a more diverse Republican Party would have more people who could see it. A more diverse group of people looking at Trump’s tweets and speeches before he issued them wouldn’t have let much of the crap he has broadcast out to the world. But then again, the Republicans will have a hard time becoming more diverse with Trump, or someone else who traffics in the same, at its head. In the latest exodus, more than a dozen members of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council resigned after his bellicose immigration speech.
Republicans and conservatives need to take more seriously the diverse voices that exist, not to try to appeal to the electorate, but because their experiences add something. They need to condemn racism not because it could hurt their brand but because it is wrong. They also need to be open to discussing and condemning racism where it exists. Rather than condemning President Obama for visiting a mosque or speaking about police bias as a “divisive” act, admit that there are real issues we can’t ignore just because they can be tough to talk about.
Real minority outreach doesn’t just consist of taking photos with Hispanic leaders and then ignoring their proposals. It doesn’t mean using minorities as props, as Trump did in 2015 when he bragged about meeting with a group of black religious leaders in what he said was an endorsement even though there was no endorsement. It certainly doesn’t mean using the murder of a black woman with a famous cousin as a campaign message. Americans of any ethnicity or religion are just as American as any other, and their voices matter.
Hit Trump Where It Hurts
The error that some clear-headed commentators make in failing to acknowledge the bigotry in Trump’s behavior is the same error some liberals make in trying to analyze the motivations of ISIS. They analyze it through their own eyes, which aren’t clouded in hate, but in doing so, they fail to see how someone with such biases could hold different views.
“The political cost of a tweet that many will view as anti-Semitic far outweighs any gain to be had via a nod to anti-Semites,” Paul Mirengoff wrote at Powerline after the Star of David “corrupt” tweet. “As a matter of strategy, how would it benefit him to do something like that?” Hot Air’s Allahpundit wrote.
Although bigotry isn’t logical as a basis for making decisions, it has existed throughout history. Moreover, bigotry (real or feigned) has indeed been a useful tool for big government politicians to appeal to voters throughout history. Cruz had the same hardline proposal on deporting 11 million that Trump once claimed, but he didn’t get traction in part because of his race (Trump supporters have cooler feelings towards minority groups) and in part because his language wasn’t as divisive.
Trump wouldn’t have brought so many new alt-right voters into the fold without his appeals to identity politics and bigotry. The bigotry, if Reince can’t see it so clearly and if others want to excuse it, is seen perfectly well by those who may be the intended audience, real racists like David Duke, Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer, and their Twitter followers. They both heard him loud and clear when they saw the Jewish star.
The goal, if it was a goal, would be to expand one’s appeal to the alt-right without losing votes. As long as party leaders, opinion leaders, and individual voters continue to back him after anything he does or says, Trump would succeed with that. The only way making appeals to bigotry would be irrational is if it hurts one’s political standing. If we want to make bigotry irrational, bigots and pretend bigots must be punished at the ballot box.