Ross Douthat's Fancy New York Times Brain Ponders: What Will Make Blacks Love Trump?
Ross Douthat, whom the New York Times employs for what I'm sure are compelling reasons, took to Twitter Thursday to favor us with his latest lukewarm take. Perhaps while sitting in a comfy chair and reading aloud from his own book, "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class," he stopped to contemplate Donald Trump's contentious relationship with black Americans.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll from late August revealed that 97 percent of black people disapprove of Trump. Eighty percent want him impeached. Sixty percent don't fully trust stuffed crust pizza because he once endorsed it. FOX News had crowed about some polls where black Trump support was at whopping 21 percent, but even if it weren't fake news, that's still lower than syphilis. Republicans aren't that bullish about black people's affections for either Trump or the GOP improving dramatically, which is probably why they prefer to just stop us from voting. However, Douthat resides on the "sunrise side of the mountain," so he can't help wondering if there's some obvious, easy-peasy way Trump could become as popular with black folks as a free screening of Black Panther that also served unlimited Bojangles' chicken.
I hate to cut off a potentially rousing discussion of tax policy and the benefit of having trains that run on time or at all. But the answer to Douthat's question is a pretty simple and resounding: "Bad." Trump's approval with us would still be lousy with the badness because he is a racist who can't go eight minutes without insulting us. We'd love a middle-class tax cut. That's one of many reasons 89 percent of us voted for Hillary Clinton. Although we're fairly "pro-train," Trump's attorney general is another racist whose middle name is literally "Beauregard," so we're unsure how freely we'd ride on them. Would we have to tap dance down to the colored-only restrooms?
During the 2016 campaign, Trump famously courted the black vote by reminding us how crappy and pointless our lives are.
"Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it's safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats. And I ask you this, I ask you this — crime, all of the problems — to the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I'll straighten it out. I'll straighten it out. What do you have to lose?"
Spoiler Alert: We lost a lot. Once Trump entered the Oval Office, he had so many white supremacists working for him, at least two were named "Stephen." But he wasn't really talking to us anyway. That was his obvious attempt to appear less racist to the Republicans who like to think they're not racist. They also agree, despite knowing few of us firsthand, that black people collectively live in squalor.
In a now-deleted tweet, Benny Johnson of The Daily Caller claimed conservatives' new favorite black guy, Kanye West, was "born impoverished," perhaps in "hard-time Mississippi, surrounded by four walls that ain't so pretty." I made up the last part but Johnson had similarly embellished West's origins: His father was a prominent photojournalist and his mother a college professor. Johnson also claimed West was from a "broken home," which is technically true but racially charged. Ivanka Trump was 11 when her parents divorced. No one would seriously suggest she grew up in a "broken home."
To borrow from James Brown, money won't change how we feel about Trump. Republicans perhaps willfully ignore the fact that Barack Obama expanded health care access to the broke-ass and toothless across the country who still voted against him and forwarded racist monkey memes about him and his family. I don't know why they would assume that black people would be more inclined to back someone who they believe opposes everything they stand for -- no matter how bright and shiny that tax cut is.
I think this speaks to the root of conservatives' total misunderstanding of black people and why we "languish on the Democrat plantation." They basically believe we are shiftless and dependent upon government handouts and Democrats cynically buy our votes with "free stuff" that they "take" from hard-working white people. (Yeah, that's not racist. That's not racist at all.) The wisdom of Ayn Rand and the power of free markets could save us if we just let them.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act wasn't about "free stuff" or "free markets." It was about freedom of movement, freedom to just be a person in the world. That's what we fear losing with Trump in the White House and his far-Right judges on the courts. We knew exactly what we had to lose in 2016 and we still do. This "son of a bitch" says Trump can leave his thirty pieces of silver in the federal reserve or use it to buy Douthat and other conservatives a clue.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.