Donald Trump is on the path to earning record low levels of African-American support. And if you take a look at the agenda for the Republican National Convention, you can’t help but conclude that he has essentially thrown in the towel concerning the black vote.
Leading up to the convention Trump actually polled at zero percent in both Ohio and Pennsylvania with African Americans in one poll last week. Trump has long contested that he plans on winning a significant portion of the black and Latino vote despite the anger he has generated within both electorates, but thus far his rhetoric is mostly ego driven bravado with no policy backing whatsoever.
The convention is his first attempt to show how a Republican Party with Trump at the helm would look. Based on the list of speakers, the focus is on eye-catching personalities who may appeal to moderate Republicans, and representatives of the far right who have formed the foundation of his unlikely surge to political prominence. The Los Angeles Times described the upcoming convention as “super weird and super white.”
There are some black speakers—a motley crew of folks who not only hold zero sway with the African-American community, but will probably contribute to further alienating him from black voters. (There are still plenty more states where he can win zero support.)
Of the five black speakers, only Ben Carson has national name recognition. Two others, Mark Burns and Darrell Scott, are ministers who regularly open for Trump on the stump but hold very little weight within the black community. The remaining two black speakers, GOP Colorado Senate candidate Darryl Glenn and Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, are so far to the right that they hardly hold any relevance within the GOP or with black Republicans.
Clarke has recently been making the rounds on television shows to denounce the Black Lives Matter movement and criticize President Barack Obama’s leadership.
“The violence and hate-filled messages pouring out of Black Lives Matter seek exactly this kind of bloody resolution, or revolution, though they cannot admit it in polite society,” wrote Clarke in an op-ed he penned for Fox News, in which he blamed BLM for the tragic shooting in Dallas. “You see, Black Lives Matter is proving itself to seek only one end—and that is discord, alienation among Americans, rise in hate and destruction of community bonds.”
And none of us would be surprised if Clarke and other speakers used the tragic killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday by African-American ex-Marine Gavin Long to further inflame racial tensions and repel black voters.
The image of a black police officer denouncing BLM in Cleveland, where the black community is still reeling over the tragic shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, only further solidifies the narrative that Trump does not understand what matters to the black community.
Glenn, who regularly introduces himself by saying, “I’m an unapologetic Christian-constitutional-conservative-pro-life-Second-Amendment-loving American,” is a Tea Party-supported county commissioner in Colorado and former champion power lifter who emerged from a chaotic five-way Senate race to claim the Republican nomination. Glenn has a political platform built primarily on bombast (don’t be surprised if he gives a fiery speech) and less on experience and constitutional governance (though he is a lawyer).
On Glenn’s website he lays out his position on the Second Amendment, stating that “The Second Amendment to the Constitution is unambiguous. It states that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms…shall not be infringed.’” Glenn has chosen to redefine/misinterpret the amendment by ignoring its origins and creating an unnecessary degree of ambiguity by substituting the comma between “arms” and “shall” with an ellipsis.”
Additionally, the fact that Glenn’s improbable rise was achieved without any paid staff (he only uses volunteers) may provide him with a great story to tell, but it will surely negatively impact his chances of claiming an additional Senate seat for the GOP. Right now, the contest is rated likely Democratic.
Ted Cruz is a big supporter of Glenn’s—they are both climate change deniers and want to defund Planned Parenthood—and their combined anti-establishment rhetoric helped propel Glenn to victory in the who-knows primary. However, Glenn will now need a serious injection of cash, despite keeping costs low by not paying anyone, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has shown few signs of supporting this unlikely nominee who intends on becoming another Cruz.
Burns and Scott are little known ministers who have been seduced by Trump’s personality, and have become Trump supporters during this election cycle. Repeatedly they’ve tried to reach out to black voters on behalf of Trump, but their efforts have always fallen flat, and we should expect nothing less from their convention speeches.
Carson’s presence should come as little surprise, and neither should his lack of appeal to black voters.
The African-American speakers at the RNC represent a failed black outreach narrative that the GOP has been unable to improve upon. These black men champion individual liberty and responsibility over collective struggle, and have a disregard for experience and the establishment. They have become enraptured with Trump’s cult of personality, and emboldened by being seen as counterfoils to Obama.
These candidates represent the façade of racial diversity that the GOP always attempts to project. Normally, their black representatives can appeal to at least a sliver of the black electorate, but this assemblage of also rans spearheaded by Carson shows how far the GOP has fallen in the eyes of black Americans. Not even their façade is convincing anymore and Trump may have many more zeroes in his future.