In yet another recent diatribe on Fox News, Trump added an odd twist to his never-ending assault on Black Lives Matter. This time he claimed that the group was bad for Blacks. Why? Because their name implied discrimination, and any hint of discrimination, would hurt Blacks. The explanation if it could be called such was loopy, tortured, and insulting. But there was method in picking on Black Lives Matter as a detriment to Blacks. It fit in with Trump's snatch at any angle to sell the notion that he has Blacks interest at heart. There are some painful reasons why It's not a bad ploy.
The reality is that thousands of Blacks did vote for Trump in 2016. Trump touched a perennial sore spot by playing hard on the complaint that poor, underserved Black neighborhoods are supposedly a mess with lousy public schools, high crime and violence, and chronic joblessness and poverty. He dumped the blame for that squarely on the Democrats who run and have run most of these cities for decades.
This fed the apathy that translated into a lot of Blacks staying home on Election Day in the three or four Heartland states and Florida. This assured Trump a razor thin edge over Hillary Clinton in those states. And that put him in the White House. One graphic has been looped repeatedly. It shows that if Blacks in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia had gone to the polls that would have been more than enough to offset Trumps vote edge in the swing states. But they didn't.
There was another reason. There are more than a few Blacks who proudly boast that they are Republicans. Trump props them up with his handful of carefully choreographed appearances with high-profile Black preachers, at name Black churches. This is just enough to take the hard and sharp edge for some Blacks off the almost-set-in-stone image of Trump as a guy with a white sheet under his suit.
There is also a core of professional Black Republicans. In the last three presidential elections, the GOP put some money and political muscle behind the creation and support of Black GOP advocacy groups. They ran ads hammering the Democrats for their alleged indifference to and outright aid and abet of black suffering in the inner cities, and touting the GOP's emphasis on small business, school choice, and family values as the best path to Black advancement. They are familiar faces on Fox News and other cable news outlets preaching the virtues of the GOP, Trump, and battering the Democrats, always on the issue of race.
They artfully dodge any question about why they are stone silent on Trump's white nationalist court and the GOP's gut of civil rights protections, and health, education, and job programs that benefit Blacks. However, that's less important than the optics of Blacks actively pitching Trump while verbally mugging Biden for his opposition to Bussing and his tout of the Clinton Crime Bill. Their assault on Biden and the Democrats has some appeal to many Blacks. Though this will never trigger any kind of stampede to the GOP by even most of these conservative-leaning Blacks, it is just enough to take some of the sting out of the GOP's naked history of racial abuse.
This gives Trump a small opening to pursue his dual strategy with Blacks and race. The obvious one is to use Black Lives Matter as the fall guy. He can harangue them as thugs, anarchist, terrorists, and, of course, anti-white. This political pyrotechnics is designed to stir fear among his base of less educated white male and female, blue collar, and rural voters. Many of whom are in panic and fear of hordes of these Black violent prone anarchists coming to their neighborhoods.
The more subtle part of his race strategy is to sell himself as the real friend of Blacks. His repeated shout that he's done more for Blacks than any president since Lincoln is not simply Trump lunacy run amok. It is carefully designed as a talking point for Black Republicans to play up Trump's few arguable commendable policy accomplishments such as increased funding for Historic Black Colleges, his backing of modest criminal reform and a few high profile pardons of Black prisoners, the pre COVID falling rates of Black unemployment and the benefit of charter schools for some Blacks. Polls have shown that younger Blacks are less enthusiastic about Biden than older Black voters. And that Blacks overall are less enthusiastic about the election so far than whites.
Trump will use the stick to hammer Black Lives Matter while using the carrot to tout his initiatives to benefit Blacks. He'll have a loud, outspoken and media visible pack of Black Republicans to sell this pitch to Blacks. Trump and they have no illusion that most Black voters will break from Biden. However, the game plan is to peel just enough Blacks off in the key states to vote again for Trump while sowing more hostility and apathy among enough Black voters in those states toward the Democrats that they stay home on Election Day. That will only benefit Trump. This is the real danger for the Democrats--again.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Why the Electoral College Not You Elects Presidents (Amazon Kindle. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.