Over the weekend, Fox News’ Chris Wallace conducted an interesting interview with the White House’s Stephen Miller, and the host described what he sees as the core problem with Donald Trump and the issue of race.
“It’s when he goes into stoking racial fears,” Wallace said of the president. “I’ve never called any of his tweets racist, but there’s no question that he is stoking racial divisions.”
Trump offered a very different perspective yesterday, when a reporter asked him specifically about whether he’s “stoking racial tensions.” The Republican replied:
“No, I don’t think — no, no, no racial tension. No, no, there’s no racial tension.
“Look, I had my best numbers recently, and it’s because of the economy and what I’ve done for the African American…. We have fantastic relationships with the African-American community. I think you’ll see that. Certainly, you’re going to see that in 2020, I believe.”
I should note that the phrase “done for the African American” is how the president’s words were officially transcribed by the White House. If you watch the clip, it’s what he actually appeared to say.
Stepping back, there are a couple of problems with Trump’s assertions. Right off the bat, the idea that Trump has “fantastic relationships with the African-American community” is very difficult to take seriously. Not only has the president been at the center of far too many racist incidents, but a recent poll found his approval rating among black voters at just 13%.
At a rally in August 2016, Trump boasted, “At the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote. I promise you.”
Now would probably be a good time for him to start lowering his expectations.
As for Trump’s confidence that “racial tension” does not exist, there’s some striking evidence to the contrary.
The Associated Press recently reported:
In January, a CBS News poll found nearly 6 in 10 Americans saying race relations in the country are generally bad.
It wasn’t always that way. Positive views of the state of race relations in the country peaked with President Barack Obama’s inauguration, after which 66% of Americans said race relations were generally good in an April 2009 CBS News/New York Times poll. But views started to sour in 2014 following a number of high-profile shootings of black men by police officers and have continued to be more negative than positive in the Trump era.
And Americans think Trump is contributing to the problem. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this year showed 56% of Americans saying Trump has made race relations worse.
Americans gave similarly poor assessments of the president’s impact on specific racial, ethnic and religious minorities. Nearly 6 in 10 considered Trump’s actions to be bad for Hispanics and Muslims, and about half said they were bad for African Americans, according to a February 2018 poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Trump may not care for these results, but he shouldn’t pretend they don’t exist.