Front-running Republican presidential contender Donald Trump got more than the “love” he said he saw in the room at his mid-Manhattan offices where he met with a pack of black ministers.
He had banks of television cameras and reporters recording his every move and word. He got the tongues wagging furiously among blacks who mostly lambasted the meeting. He defiantly claimed that he made no promises and made no concessions to the ministers in return for the meeting or their endorsement.
He got the ultimate prize when a few black ministers publicly gushed over him. It was the ultimate photo-op.
Trump well knows that he has absolutely no chance of getting little more than a scant handful of black votes if he wins the Republican presidential nomination. And even the few black preachers who spoke glowingly of him, once their congregation get wind of their betrayal of their interests, will probably back pedal fast from their support of him.
But Trump’s race baiting, anti-black, anti-immigrant history is so horrendous and despicable that what better way to show that he’s not a racist then to handpick a staged setting with a few blacks. He has to publicly establish for the campaign record that he is not a one-dimensional presidential candidate that’s stuck on racial vitriol and that he’s perfectly capable of addressing and dealing with minority issues and problems.
The meeting with the ministers doesn’t change the other brutal political reality about Trump, the GOP and the 2016 presidential campaign. That is he doesn’t need or want black support in order to stay at the top of the GOP presidential nominee heap. The two tips to that has been Trump’s personal approach to the campaign and the GOP’s past five-decade history of presidential politics.
Trump has not publicly sought any major endorsements from black GOP elected officials, or prominent black Republicans. The relatively large number of black Republicans that gained some attention in the 2012 mid-term elections because of their number will not be much help to Trump in drumming up black Republican votes. And to date he’s shown little interest in actively courting them.
Trump’s noticeably lily white retinue of aides, campaign staffers, advisers and bankrollers, not to mention endorsers and pitch persons, is in stark contrast to that of GOP presidential candidates of past years.
GOP presidential candidate Richard Nixon in 1968 got well-publicized endorsements from black celebrities such as James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr. and Wilt Chamberlain. Former President George W. Bush went much further and managed to blunt the hard criticism that a GOP White House is almost always virtually an exclusive white, rich, male, clubby preserve with his arguable breakthrough appointments of Colin Powell as secretary of state, and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser.
Trump and the GOP’s political calculus of what it takes to win or even be competitive in a presidential election virtually ensures blacks will have little to no role in a GOP presidential campaign. GOP presidential candidates anchor their campaigns on getting a crushing number and percent of conservative whites, especially white males, in the South and the heartland.
They have consistently delivered more than one-third of the electoral votes needed to secure the White House. GOP presidents and aspiring presidents, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. George W. Bush, and John McCain and legions of GOP governors, senators and congressional representatives would have no chance of maintaining the GOP’s regional and national political power, position and influence without them.
While blue collar voters have shrunk from more than half of the nation’s voters to less than 40 percent. The assumption based solely on this slide and the increased minority population numbers and regional demographic changes is that the GOP’s white vote strategy is doomed to fail.
That ignores three political facts. Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. They vote in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks.
Polls consistently show that Trump’s most rapid backers are middle- and lower-income blue collar white workers. They like his shoot-from-the-lip, tough talking, anti-Obama, anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim bashing.
Given the loathing and disgust with business as usual mainstream politicians, they may well turn out in significant numbers to tip a close primary contest somewhere to Trump. They will not be there for him if there’s any hint that he will backslide on his racially front-loaded rants.
He made it clear after the meeting with the preachers that he rejected the few tepid appeals allegedly from one or two black ministers that he tone down his inflammatory rhetoric. Trump wouldn’t be Trump if he did.
The black ministers couldn’t even if they wanted to make him. Trump got what he wanted by the meeting.
That was a chance to act like he’s not a racist, without renouncing racism. The black ministers through their embarrassing presence there willingly ensured that will remain the case. Or as Trump said “I saw love in that room.”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is “Hunt Terrorists, Don’t Witch-hunt Muslims” (Amazon Kindle). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.