Donald Trump says Black people love him. At an event in South Carolina last week he even pulled out a poll from his pocket showing “huge” support among Blacks, yet at that very event, co-sponsored by the state’s African-American Chamber of Commerce, there were very few African-Americans in attendance.
Most of the people in attendance, which totaled about 500, according to ThinkProgress, were white, Southern, loyal Trump supporters a key part of his base. Yet that did not stop Trump from highlighting his appeal among African-Americans and citing polls showing he is winning the Black vote.
It is unclear whether Trump noticed the crowd was predominantly white or whether his remarks were prepared anticipating a predominantly Black audience being that he was speaking to business leaders at a meeting of the Greater Charleston Business Alliance, which supports minority businesses and is affiliated with the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce.
“The polls are through the roof,” Trump exclaimed. Pulling out a poll from SurveyUSA that shows him getting 25 percent of the Black vote in a match-up against Hillary Clinton, Trump said: “Here’s a poll, Trump receives 25 percent of the Black vote in general election If you win 25 percent of the Black vote, it’s over, you win!”
He added: “Generally, Republicans do not do well with African-Americans. I have a lot of friends, African-Americans in New York, they say, ‘You’re going to get most of the vote.’ I was actually disappointed with the 25 percent.”
However, according to most national polls, Trump in fact is not doing so well with the Black community. In a Quinnipiac University poll released last month, Trump received only 3 percent of Black support in a match-up against Clinton. And a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month shows African Americans oppose Trump’s policies even more than Latinos, a group he has insulted since day one of his candidacy for president. On immigration alone, 81 percent of Blacks have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, compared with 75 percent of Latinos.
Ironically, among the 15 Republican presidential candidates, Trump did best among Black Republicans and independents in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Trump is still fresh off criticism that he did not correct a supporter who said Muslims are the problem in this country, and he has been the butt of more jokes based on the premise that he’s a racist. During the Emmy Awards last week host Andy Samberg plainly stated as such.
Whether Trump is a racist or simply panders to racists and bigots depends on who you ask, but among his supporters, many have repeatedly demonstrated intolerance for Blacks, Latinos, Muslims and gay people.
And even at events such as this one co-sponsored by a Black organization, Trump’s supporters are not afraid to show up and express their strong feelings on racial issues. In fact, their views mirror those of the “white nationalists” described in a feature on Trump in The New Yorker last month.
“Ever since the Tea Party’s peak, in 2010, and its fade, citizens on the American far right Patriot militias, border vigilantes, white supremacists have searched for a standard-bearer, and now [they’ve] found him,” The New Yorker said. “In the past, ‘white nationalists,’ as they call themselves, had described Trump as a ‘Jew-lover,’ but the new tone of his campaign was a revelation.”
Attendees at the South Carolina event acknowledged a racial divide but blamed the Black community.
“I think the black community should be first in addressing their problems,” South Carolina resident Margarita Lynn told ThinkProgress when asked if Trump could bridge the racial divide in the country. “I think the Black community is held hostage to a small minority of Black criminals, and until the Black community itself rises up to protect themselves against this small element of Black criminals that are overpowering their communities, very little can be done.”
Trump has further alienated Black voters with his comments surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. He has said he would fight with activists if they tried to interrupt one of his campaign events, as BLM activists did at a Bernie Sanders event, and Trump has also said more power needs to go back to police.
Retired New Jersey police officer Brian Murphy, attending the South Carolina event, told ThinkProgress that Trump “stands for what the people feel” and would be the best person to lead the country, even though he won’t appeal to a number of minorities. “We’re trying to appease so many groups in life, it’s just not possible.” He also agreed with Trump that more power should be given to police.
Richard Spencer, a promoter of “white racial consciousness” and an individual whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old,” according to The New Yorker, said “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist [but reflects] an unconscious vision that white people have that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon. I think he is the one person who can tap into it.”
While Trump’s supporters seemed to hang on his every word, applauding and cheering his remarks, the few Black attendees were far less enthusiastic.
“He’s very entertaining,” attendee Donna Newton told MSNBC after the event as she laughed with two friends. “The stuff that comes out of his mouth is unbelievable.”
A Black small business owner, Columbia, S.C., resident Frank Mitchell, told ThinkProgress at the event that Trump’s comments on business resonated with him. “I don’t see him being racist or anything,” he said, adding that would consider voting for either Trump or Joe Biden (much further to the left).
North Charleston was the scene of protests this year after white policeman Michael Slager shot and killed Walter Scott, a Black man, as he ran away following a traffic stop.
South Carolina Republicans vote in February, just weeks after Iowa and New Hampshire voters begin the nominating contest. Republican presidential candidates in recent general elections have won a very small fraction of the Black vote. George W. Bush won 11 percent of Black voters in 2004, and Mitt Romney received about 6 percent in 2012 against President Barack Obama.