Donald Trump has embarked on a halfhearted campaign to recruit African American support in 2020. Even a president who shuns reality knows it's ridiculous for Republicans to spend a lot of energy on black voters.
And for Trump, it's worthless.
Perhaps that is why his recent "Black Voices for Trump" rally in Atlanta seemed so disingenuous. Maybe that explains why he began his speech with a racial joke, even bungling the name of the group he was there to tout.
What do you prefer, he asked the handful of supporters, "Blacks for Trump" or "African Americans for Trump?" It was condescending and gratuitous. And it was troubling to see a president make light of what to call the race of minorities who helped build this country.
The event was the latest confirmation that Trump doesn't give two cents about African Americans. "Black Voices for Trump" is nothing more than a campaign stunt to show moderate white voters who might be on the fence about his re-election that he is not the racist people say he is.
He's just not that into black people, and more importantly, he doesn't understand black voters.
"We've done more for African Americans in three years than the broken Washington establishment has done in 30 years," he said. It's a theme he repeats every time he's around black people.
Not only is it patronizing, it's annoying. And black people aren't buying it. Eighty-one percent of African Americans think Trump has made things worse for people of color, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
He doesn't get how disrespectful it is to keep telling black people, "Look at everything I've done for you." It promotes the stereotype that blacks are looking for a handout and their vote can be bought and sold to the highest bidder. It sounds like he's saying blacks don't really deserve to be treated like other Americans, but he has been good to them anyway. And for that, he seems to think they owe him something.
There are plenty of reasons Trump garnered only 8 percent of the black vote in 2016, and those reasons have only been amplified since he has been in office. A recent ABC News poll showed Trump with a 7 percent approval rating among African Americans. Eighty percent of African Americans "strongly" disapprove of him.
When it comes to what they value in America, black people are no different than the majority of white people. Blacks are just as sick and tired, maybe even more so, of him using race to pit Americans against each other. Blacks cringe just as much as whites when they hear about children being separated from their parents at the border.
They gag just as hard when he repeats one of the more than 13,000 lies or misleading claims he has made as president. And like many other Americans, blacks are convinced that he is corrupt and unfit to hold office.
Still, there were a couple of hundred African Americans who showed up for him in Atlanta. Turns out, they are no different than his staunchest white supporters--they swallow his Kool-Aid with as much gusto.
It didn't seem to matter that Trump was spewing lies and exaggerating. This small group of supporters sucked it all up, showering him with chants of "Four more years!" just like the people at his much larger and overwhelmingly white rallies do.
Some black people, it seems, are tone-deaf too. They don't care that those chants of "USA!" and "Make America Great Again" are really about turning back the clock and re-creating the America that existed when African Americans could be killed for trying to vote.
The good thing, though, is that the majority of African Americans are just as smart as most white Americans when it comes to Trump. They know a lie when they hear it, and they can spot a con man when they see him.
Most African Americans tune him out when he brags about lowering the black unemployment rate. They know that the black unemployment rate decline began under Barack Obama.
If African Americans should thank anyone, it should be Obama for bringing about the most dramatic drop in black unemployment following the recession that his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, helped create.
African Americans suffered disproportionately during the recession, reaching a peak of 16.8 percent unemployment in March 2010. By January 2017, when Obama left office, black unemployment had dropped to 7.7 percent.
While it is true that the unemployment rate for African Americans reached a historic low of 5.4 percent in October, the decline follows a downward trend that began in 2011. The incremental drops since Trump took office do not come near the 9 percentage points it fell under Obama's watch in the White House.
No one is complaining about the availability of jobs. But exactly what kinds of jobs are being created and who is landing the best ones? Certainly not African Americans.
According to a recent Gallup poll, African Americans still hold a disproportionate number of low-income jobs. And twice the number of African Americans had what is considered to be a bad job, compared with whites: 25 percent versus 13 percent. A stunning 31 percent of African American women held bad jobs.
That means African Americans still earn significantly less than whites, resulting in an overall lower quality of life. Trump wouldn't dare to delve into this difficult territory. He has no idea what to do about wage inequality and has no viable plan to ensure that black workers receive the training and support needed to compete for high-paying jobs.
It is easier to simply toe the Republican Party line. His answer for growing the economy is to take money out of the hands of hard-working African Americans and put it into the pockets of wealthy white Americans through tax cuts.
On the campaign trail, his go-to question for blacks is: "What the hell do you have to lose?"
For most African Americans, the answer is no different than it is for most white Americans. What's at stake are affordable health care, a woman's right to choose, responsible gun laws, and a compassionate nation that can hold up its head with dignity.
If Trump can figure out how to get those things for African Americans, he just might have a chance of earning their support.
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
Editorial on 11/17/2019