Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Donald Trump and the Black Vote

But in large part, the real purpose of my last post was to counter a rather foolish article in Cracked, 5 Ways Donald Trump Perfectly Mirrors Hitler's Rise to Power.  In particular, the author's fears that Trump will win by courting the black vote.  I wouldn't worry too much.

Obviously, the first way the author compares Trump to Hitler is that he scapegoats an ethnic minority.  And here I completely agree -- Trump should be condemned for that.  Of course, there is the tiny little difference that Trump does not have storm troopers intimidating his opponents by violence, so he really can't reasonably be compared to Hitler.  But ethnic scapegoating is in all cases an ugly business that appeals to people's basest instincts and ought certainly to be condemned.

The second point is rather a different matter.  "He'll sell his hate as hope for the poorest citizens in this country."  In other words, Trump is attempting to appeal to black voters by telling them that the illegal immigrants are stealing their jobs, and that black people might fall for it.  Naturally, the author sees this as dirty pool.

In this, the author is wrong on all points.  First of all, while Hitler did, indeed, peddle hate as hope, what really brought him to power was neither hate nor hope, but fear.  It is true that it was the Great Depression and 25% unemployment that brought Hitler to power, but it is not true that his votes were coming from the unemployed.  Hitler's share of the uncoerced vote peaked at 37%, but only 13% of the unemployed.  His appeal was to people who feared losing what they had, especially their jobs. The unemployed and others with nothing to lose were more likely to vote for the Communists.

Next, although liberals tend to see playing black against brown as dirty pool, it really isn't.  Seeking to attract the support of a promising ethnic group is politics as usual.  And have-not versus have-not rivalry is both normal and normally ugly.  Try, for instance, reading about black-Irish relations in the US in the 19th Century.  Not pleasant.

And as for whether this will appeal to black voters, the whole point of my last post is that black voters aren't all that interested in employment and bread-and-butter issues so much as in police-community relations.  Besides, what is Trump promising our inner cities:
Increase standards for the admission of refugees and asylum seekers to crack down on abuses.  Use the monies saved on expensive refugee programs to help place American children without parents in safer homes and communities and to improve community safety in high crime neighborhoods in the United States.
Does this sound like something that would appeal to black voters?  Placing children in "safer homes an communities" sounds very much like taking black children out of their communities, a thing the communities are apt to find threatening.  (Presumably even children without parents have grand parents and other relatives).  "Improve community safety in high crime neighborhoods" sounds very much like a police crackdown on black neighborhoods.

Even less likely to be appealing to black people is point three on the list, that Trump plans to fight gun violence by tougher mandatory minimum sentences for people who commit gun crimes.  Given that mandatory minimums are a major reason so many black people are in prison now, that doesn't exactly sound like a good way to win the black vote.  Oh yes, and he calls for crackdowns on crime in violent cities like Chicago and Baltimore.  "Chicago and Baltimore."  I can hear the code there.  Do you think black people can't?

Then the article descends into simple paranoia.

Nonetheless, I can think of other reasons why Trump is not going to win the black vote.  In the last election, he tried to win the nomination by going birther.  Do you think black people have forgotten? I don't.  His overall tone and style is a pander to the white working class one that does not appeal to black voters.  Campaign Zero classifies his plan to triple the number of immigration officers to identify, detain and deport illegal immigrants as harmful.  This is actually one police crackdown that is unlikely to affect black people much at all.  But general distrust of police intrusiveness is high enough to raise concerns for black people even if someone else is the target.

And suppose Trump does decide to pander to black voters.  What do you think he will do?  My guess is, do exactly what he does to pander to anyone else.  I Black Lives Matter activists ask him what he intends to do about police brutality, he will say that he as heard it is terrible, but under a Trump presidency he will put an end to it.  Somehow I don't think that will be convincing.

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