By now, you’ve probably heard Donald Trump insist he will win the African-American vote. He’s made the claim several times, and just a few days ago he got specific, saying he’d win 95 percent of the black vote in a reelection bid, if he were to become president.
Despite polling at exactly zero in some states with African Americans, he’s been making his sales pitch to black voters over the past week — and he’s, predictably, being punished for it.
Nothing short of a media firestorm has erupted over the fact that Trump has been speaking rhetorically to African-American audiences, while physically in front of crowds of white folk. In West Bend, Wisc., a town that is predominantly white, Trump said, “I’m asking for the vote of every African-American citizen struggling in our country today, who want a different and much better future.”
Then again, in mostly white Dimondale, Mich., he delivered this line, presumably to black voters at home: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
I’m no Trump fan — and he will most certainly not win the black vote, and for many good reasons, including pretending not to know who David Duke is. As my friend Errol Lewis wrote, Trump’s motivation is partly political: “Trump seeks to prove to appalled white voters — including many conservatives — that he isn’t a horrible, divisive bigot.” Too late.
However, the piling on of Trump’s African-American outreach is also political, and it’s shameful. Democrats are existentially threatened by a Republican’s attempt, botched or not, to creep into their territory. Any outreach is maligned. Republicans, forever accused of not caring about minorities, are scolded when they attempt to show they care about minorities.
Newt Gingrich has defended Trump’s pitch to black voters, but suggested, “Trump going into inner-city Philadelphia and offering a better future could have an amazing result. Because the truth is, no Republican has ever had the courage.”
Not so. In 2012, Mitt Romney went to predominantly black West Philadelphia to meet with the kids of an inner-city charter school.
What happened? Outside the school, Democrats protested his visit. Not only that, two black Democratic elected officials — including the mayor of Philadelphia! — joined the protests.
“I don’t know why this guy’s here,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, who complained that Romney “has suddenly somehow found West Philadelphia, somehow now wants to talk about education.”
“I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America,” Nutter also said.
For good measure, District Attorney Seth Williams criticized Romney for only visiting a school, and not walking the streets.
So, a Republican campaigning for president goes into a black community to talk about an important issue to many black families, and for this he is protested. Trump, for avoiding black communities and refusing an invitation to speak with the NAACP, is attacked.
If Democrats and black voters have issues with Republican policies, that’s totally fair. But squeezing Republicans into no-win scenarios, just to keep black voters from hearing what conservatives might have to say, and punishing them for trying, is just self-interested political chicanery. And it’s at the heart of Trump’s appeal — protecting the self-interested status quo is what so many voters are against.
To be sure, race is not the only area Democrats like to have it both ways, shaming Republicans for trying and for not trying. On poverty, Democrats complained for years that the right was disinterested in the plight of the poor, only to dismiss Sen. Marco Rubio and Speaker Paul Ryan for “suddenly” caring about the poor.
Trump is right to make an attempt with African-American voters. If he were a halfway decent candidate, he might have had a chance to peel some away from the Democrats, who have a long list of unfulfilled promises. It’s not the venue that is his problem, it’s Trump himself.
But rest assured, no matter where he spoke, what he said, and how he said it, Democrats would have an issue with it. Because they think black voters belong to them. Sad.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com
This column originally appeared in the New York Daily News.
Send letters to email@example.com
Follow S.E. Cupp on Twitter: @secupp