I’ve long wondered about the handful of African Americans at President Trump’s campaign rallies. They seem always to be positioned behind him in full view of the cameras. You can’t miss them — their brown faces stand out in the overwhelming sea of white faces. That’s why then candidate Donald Trump could easily spot the Black man at one of his campaign rallies, calling him “My African-American.”
This campaign season he hasn’t called out any other people of color, though there are typically a few also sprinkled in the crowd. But my eye is mostly drawn to the Black red-hat-wearing- banner-waving enthusiasts yelling for "Four more years!" I am curious and confused by why they are there, but then again, their presence undermines the persistent myth that Black voters are ideologically monolithic.
I’ve met a few — very few — Black people who are solidly in the President’s camp. These long-time followers are true believers to the cause. Like the impressive young woman with whom I’ve had some serious conversations about why she supports the President. Just like most of the President’s nonblack supporters, she’s pleased by what she describes as his top successes: the robust economy, the tough stance on immigration. Gotta say, I don’t know how she reconciles President Trump’s attacks on other marginalized communities.
No matter. He’s her guy.
I could engage in a reasoned disagreement about some of the administration’s policies, if I could get past the President’s racism. I ask her how she can support someone who is overtly racist. Her answer “He doesn’t speak well, but he’s not racist.”
Huh? That’s not how Gregory Cheadle, the aforementioned “My African-American” sees it. Cheadle, a Black Republican long before President Trump was elected, was especially offended by the President’s “go back where you came from” tweets aimed at four nonwhite Congresswomen. Cheadle reenrolled as an independent and accused the President of having “a white superiority complex.” Cheadle may have left the party and the President, but his comments did nothing to shake her loyalty. And, to be clear, she is not one of those African Americans who deny there is racism or even deny that she’s been the victim of it. Maybe that’s why President Trump is leading an aggressive outreach effort to reach more African American voters in 2020.
I have to admit that during the 2016 presidential campaign I dismissed the vocal African Americans who supported Trump — like the Black minister who disappeared after his credentials were proven to be greatly enhanced. And the other non-staffers revealed to be on the payroll. And, according to recent reporting by "Politico," cash giveaways have been the centerpiece at “Black Voices for Trump” 2020 gatherings.
This may be a cynical outreach plan to Black voters, but CNN political commentator Van Jones, who is Black, warns Democrats to pay attention and not take Black voters for granted. He called it “conceivable” that a small number of Black voters could help President Trump win in swing states. He scored 8-percent of Black voters in 2016 — just a few percentage points in 2020 would give him an advantage.
And, if the small number of Black supporters at his campaign rallies ticks up, President Trump might actually be telling the truth about African-Americans giving him a second look. It wouldn’t be the first time some people who should know better have voted against their self-interest.