Tavis Smiley: Black America Could Get on Trump Train

Tavis Smiley, USA Today, March 2, 2016

With Hillary Clinton racking up more overwhelming victories in Super Tuesday primaries thanks to the overwhelming support of African-American voters, the conventional wisdom is that she has the black vote on lock down. She might be wrong.

{snip}

Nonetheless, the conventional wisdom is that black voters have forgiven the Clintons for their attempt to diminish Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and this time around, they’ve got Hillary’s back. Except everyone knows that in this presidential election cycle, conventional wisdom left the building long before the train ever left the station. Something tells me that if Donald Trump is indeed the Republican nominee, it might be a miscalculation for Democrats to assume that black voters are a lock for their nominee, even with the first black president and Barack Obama both campaigning for her.

For starters, charisma, charm and likeability aren’t transferable. While the chance to elect the first woman president is indeed tantalizing for many, in black America specifically, it’s not exactly the same as watching an African-American first family taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Indeed, even women haven’t as yet rallied en masse around Hillary the way black folk did around Obama.

Second, the number of everyday black voters who we assume will dismiss Trump because of his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attacks might well be inflated. While I certainly have had my say about Trump being a “religious and racial arsonist” (and he responded quickly on Twitter), not everyone in black America agrees with me. I have been taken by myriad conversations I’ve had with black folk who don’t find those comments by Trump necessarily or automatically disqualifying. {snip}

Third, though it is true that black/brown political coalitions have had strategic successes, it is also true that there have been plenty of other occasions where the interests of black and brown voters didn’t exactly align. In California where I live, Latinos are still smarting from the lack of black voter support in 1994 to help defeat the anti-immigrant Proposition 187. At best, it’s a big assumption to think that both the black political establishment and everyday black voters share the same sentiment on Trump’s anti-immigrant stance. Scary, but honestly, I’m not so sure.

Fourth, it’s telling how quiet the black elite have been, those who travel in social circles with Trump, even as he has been taken to task time and again for his racial if not racist language. There have been some exceptions–Harry Belafonte and Danny Glovercome to mind–but the relative silence of the black establishment class has been chilling. Recently, I read a national newspaper feature about Trump and his relationships with notable high-profile black Americans. Interestingly, nobody really wanted to go on record criticizing The Donald.

I’ve talked privately to some of Trump’s black friends since I read that piece, and to a person, their critique of him is highly nuanced. Men and women from black America’s most privileged class, either genuinely like this guy or they’re afraid of being caught in his social media meat grinder. {snip}

{snip}

Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.