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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Trump’s Black Pastor Gambit Backfires

For a sharply observed analysis of GOP candidate Donald Trump’s failed effort to secure endorsements from African American pastors, read Goldie Taylor’s Daily Beast post, “Black Pastors Confront Trump Over ‘Slurs.'” As Taylor observes,

As The Daily Beast reported over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the GOP frontrunner was set to meet Monday with dozens of high profile black pastors and hold a subsequent press conference to tout an unprecedented group endorsement. As the sun set Sunday night–and several prominent preachers backed out–many questioned whether the event would even happen.
Pressed by their congregations and by a not-so-holy war that broke out on social media, some of the invited ministers issued flat denials, saying they agreed only to discuss key issues with the candidate and that endorsements were never a part of the bargain. Two of the biggest names on the nightclub-esque promotional flier, Los Angeles-based Bishop Clarence McClendon and Brooklyn-based Bishop Hezekiah Walker, announced Sunday they would not attend. Both issued statements on social media.
…Early Monday, Trump blamed the controversy on young black activists, saying in an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “Probably some of the Black Lives Matter folks called them up and said, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be meeting with Trump because he believes all lives matter.'”
With expectations dampened, a small but resilient group of mostly black pastors stepped into a media scrum Monday afternoon to talk about the much publicized, now private meeting with Trump. There was no promised live-stream and no radio broadcast.

In other words, it was a messy little circus. Worse for Trump, it provided Taylor with an opportunity to review Trump’s record on issues of concern to African Americans:

The Republican brand is toxic in most quarters of the black community. That said, the media avail felt more like a gambit to change the optics rather than an earnest effort to bring new hope to distressed communities. Trump, who has been busy alienating black voters with his nationalistic, almost barbaric approach to the campaign trail, is clearly in need of a healing…The numbers, however, are clear. Since the late 1960s, after the passage of the civil rights acts, Republican support from black voters has wallowed in the single digits.
…Responding to an open letter from 150 faith and academic leaders published Friday by Ebony challenging the group to rethink endorsing Trump, Bishop Scott directly questioned the ethics of the magazine’s management…”By siding with a presidential candidate whose rhetoric pathologizes Black people, what message are you sending to the world about the Black lives in and outside of your congregations?” the letter read. “Which Black lives do you claim to be liberating?”
Embracing a roomful of black pastors and persuading a few to endorse him certainly aren’t enough to erase what has been–arguably–Trump’s history of racial animus and outright bigotry…Despite his claims, one could argue that Trump has been in a position to create jobs in predominantly African American communities and simply has not done so in any meaningful way. His office towers, residential units, and golf resorts are built almost exclusively in wealthy white enclaves.

“As I sat cross-legged holding a recorder in front of the bank of microphones Monday,” Taylor continues, “I wondered why Trump’s decades-long career as a real estate developer has yielded almost no investments in the black community. A review of financial records revealed that few, if any, charitable contributions have been given to programs that directly benefit African American children. Then, too, according to the company website, there is not a single black executive or key senior leader at The Trump Organization.”
As you might expect, there are accounts of Trump unleashing torrents of bigotry toward African Americans. Taylor cites one example: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” he famously told a colleague. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”
“Long before he recklessly retweeted false statistics that painted black people as criminally pathological,” Taylor adds. “Trump was sued for housing discrimination. And there are reports that black employees at an Atlantic City property were kept out of view whenever Trump visited.”
Not a record that is likely to inspire significant numbers of America’s most reliably progressive constituency to suddenly embrace a Republican candidate for president. Thing is, Trump may not be the worst of his GOP colleagues, when it comes to racial injustice, just the loudest. Every other GOP candidate has provided tacit, if not aggressively overt support for suppression of African American votes, and Trump has said or done nothing to stand up against it.

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