When Donald Trump arrived in Detroit for his first black church visit, he was met with empty pews and hundreds of protesters including prominent African American ministers. For many in the African American community, this was nothing but a publicity stunt and photo op that quite frankly, backfired. Although the Black church has a long and storied history of opening its doors to everyone from world class athletes to recovering addicts and elected officials, sacred places of worship and the epicenter of the Black community are no place for an empty suit billionaire turned politician.
Martin Luther King, Andrew Young and Medgar Evers are just a few of the giants of the civil rights movement that used pulpits all around the country to deliver a message of hope and to galvanize African-Americans voters. Modern day elected officials from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama frequently visited black churches during critical elections. The difference is it’s not their first visit and those visits are not planned to convince suburban white voters that they care about African-Americans.
These men had a substantive message that resonated with congregants, but more importantly, they had track records of working on behalf of African-Americans. When perusing Donald Trump’s meager record with African Americans, one can only find a Department of Justice lawsuit against his firm for violating the Fair Housing Act.
It’s ridiculous to even think that one church visit 60 days before an election is somehow news worthy or evidence that the Republican nominee has any intention of building a relationship with or securing the votes of African-Americans. We are clear on the fact that he is trying to manipulate African-Americans in the same way he did with the Latino community when he spent the last week suggesting that he was softening his stance on immigration only to double down and give the most restrictive immigration speech Imaginable.
Let’s be clear: There are African-Americans who might be persuaded to switch their allegiance from the Democratic Party and to vote Republican. In fact, Mitt Romney secured close to 10% of the African-American vote in his 2012 bid for the presidency and George W Bush secured close to 15 percent. High profile African-Americans like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have been registered Republicans for decades.
However, this snatch and grab approach that Trump is employing is guaranteed to fail. After Romney was defeated in 2012, the Republican parties entered into a period of reflection and emerged with an autopsy report which laid out very clearly that if they ever intended to regain the White House, they needed to invest in African-American and Latino communities and demonstrate to voters in those communities the benefits of the GOP party. Reince Prebius, the chair of the Republican National Committee, even went on a national tour touting the autopsy report and the party’s intentions of being intentional in its minority outreach strategies.
Trump and the party completely ignored the findings and recommendations of the report. The party has essentially done nothing to reach out to the African American community other than hold a couple of events and press conferences immediately following its 2012 defeat. Nothing in the platform of the party that was adopted at the RNC convention suggests that the party has taken the autopsy seriously. The 18 African-American delegates at the convention speak to how little has changed for the RNC since 2012.
In fact, the party has engaged in conduct that can only be explained as a repudiation of the autopsy’s recommendations. North Carolina Republicans specifically targeted African-American voters and enacted legislation aimed at suppressing their vote. The release of recent emails from GOP state legislators reveal premeditated strategies employed to silence voters in that state. Trump himself said he would eliminate the Department of Education and leave educational policy in the hands of states. Without federal oversight of public schools, the same GOP Legislators who targeted African-American voters would be responsible for the budgets of public schools that educate black students. Are we really to believe that those legislators would treat black students any differently than they’ve treated black voters? Remember, were smarter than that. And more importantly, we are smart enough to know that swaying to gospel music isn’t synonymous with repentance or a commitment to a real political agenda focused on Black voters.
BY Areva Martin and Eric Anderson