At a campaign event in California in June, Donald Trump looked out at a supportive audience and, for some reason, felt the need to single out one person. “Look at my African American over here,” the Republican presidential hopeful said, raising eyebrows.
It’s hard to say with confidence why, exactly, the GOP candidate made this comment, though it may have had something to do with a degree of surprise. Most Trump supporters are white, and he was likely pleased to see a person of color in the crowd.
Trump, however, has high hopes for the future. At a rally on Friday afternoon, Trump not only predicted a 2016 victory, he also aimed high for the 2020 race: “At the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote. I promise you.”
Just to put that number in context, exit polls show President Obama won roughly 93% of African Americans’ support four years ago. Trump, who’s generally received between 0% to 2% of the black vote in recent polling, “guarantees” and “promises” that he’ll be even more popular with this constituency when he runs for a second term.
But as the Washington Post reported, that’s not all Trump said about African-American voters at his Michigan rally.
“Look at how much African American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?” he asked. “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
If the Republican nominee believes this is going to boost his vote totals, he’s likely to be disappointed.
First, as the Post’s report made clear, the pitch doesn’t stand up well to fact-checking: most African Americans don’t live in poverty, for example, and Trump’s claims about unemployment are plainly incorrect.
Second, Trump is a genuinely awful messenger for this message. His record of racially divisive rhetoric makes this “outreach,” if one is inclined to call it that, difficult to take seriously.
New York’s Jon Chait added, “In Trump’s defense, there is at least some internal logic here. If African-Americans literally had no jobs at all and worthless schools, then maybe there would be a case that things could not get worse. In reality, things could definitely get worse, and it’s very easy to imagine that an ignorant, racist demagogue as president would indeed have this very effect.”