Donald Trump used bold promises in 2016 to coax votes from Black folk who should have known better. Yes, they had reasons to fret about the Democratic Party and how it has often disregarded their concerns.
Trump seized on this discontent. He told Black voters: “What do you have to lose?”
They answered: Nothing.
His slogan of “Make America Great Again” resonated with a surprising number of them. They believed his outrageous sloganeering and cast ballots for him.
Four years later, Trump’s message is a bit saltier but hardly changed: “What the hell do you have to lose?
Now, of course, many of those disaffected Democrats have watched as Trump and the Republican Party have chipped into many of the gains Blacks had made since the ’50s.
Blacks now answer that question differently: Everything.
Trump trashed Obamacare, a popular healthcare plan Blacks and whites found helpful. He rolled back progress on Civil Rights, steering America toward the Jim Crow era with his pandering to neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
He packed the federal courts with right-wing jurists who sided with turning the pages of governance back to our yesteryear, and Trump’s strategy, if the man had one, for public education was to drive it out of business in favor of for-profit schooling.
His Justice Department did little to prosecute those who preyed on the poor, and Trump pushed hard to deny women – Black women suffered dearly from this – the right to an abortion.
“What the hell do you have to lose?”
Over 40,000 Blacks have died from the coronavirus, a pandemic Trump mishandled like a juggler on a weekend drunk. His cavalier approach to the virus hit harder inside the Black community than anywhere else.
And homes? Blacks have seen the gap between them and white homeownership widen under Trump, according to government statistics.
Numbers do lie, but these don’t. Nor do numbers that show how difficult life has been for the poorest people in America under a president who favors economic giveaways to the haves but little to the have-nots, a category too many Blacks fall into.
Yet for all of this, through all his incendiary rhetoric on race, Trump counts on his words from the past to serve him well today. They should not.
Only the most myopic of Black people – men and women like Ice Cube, Shaquille O’Neal, Mike Tyson, Stacey Dash, Dennis Rodman, Jim Brown and Candace Owens, an entire gallery of reprobates – lend support to Trump.
He has governed nothing like a politician who cares about Blacks. Trump loves power, which he has twisted the U.S. Constitution into a knot to get. He has tried to mimic the leadership of Vladimir Putin, but dictators don’t play well with people who lack access to the powerful.
As in 2016, Trump realizes the Black vote matters. He has lavished Blacks of privilege – whatever privileges they have in a capitalistic society that marginalizes them – with token gestures.
Behind those gestures is Trump’s latent racism. He cannot mask who he is because of what he says. The two conflict, and those who bother to weed through his blather hear it as if it were Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony.”
No surprises are left with Trump, a fact that shouldn’t get lost on anybody who goes to the polls Tuesday.