Donald Trump sat at a conference room table in Trump Tower insisting to reporters on Thursday that the African-American community is responding positively to his new focus on their well-being.
Does he really believe that? Perhaps. He was surrounded by a team of supporters, mostly men and women of color, who told him and reporters that Trump’s message is getting through.
Trump’s poll numbers plummeted in battleground states following his latest round of gaffes on the campaign trail. His numbers were already low among African-American voters, hitting zero back in July.
Since a reshuffle of his campaign’s leadership last week, the candidate has turned his attention to Black voters to win White-moderate voters. He’s even softened his message on immigration, though he says he still plans to build a wall.
“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed,” Trump has said in his pitch to Whites about Black voters. “What the hell do you have to lose?”
After a week of that message, Trump believes — or at least he claimed to believe — that his poll numbers with African-Americans are rising.
“I’ve always had a great relationship with the African-American community,” he insisted at the Trump Tower meeting. Really?
It’s hard to tell if Trump is self-delusional or a crafty politician. What is clear, though, is he’s found Black voices willing to back him. But that support likely will not translate into votes, polls show.
Dr. Ben Carson sat next to his former political rival at the meeting, in what appears to have become a warm friendship.
The retired neurosurgeon added his two-cents of support for Trump: “What you’ve been emphasizing is that to make America great again we have to make all of America great, even our inner-cities.”
Pastor Mark Burns, a vociferous Trump supporter, was also at the roundtable. He said African-Americans are warming up to the new Trump messages.
“Yes, the message is resonating,” he said in the lobby before getting on the elevator to join the meeting. “The miracle is happening.”
During his brief photo opportunity Thursday, Trump reiterated his indictment of Democratic leaders, accusing them of failing to put policies in place to help the Black community thrive.
“They’ve been very disrespectful, as far as I’m concerned,” he exclaimed.
But African-American elected officials and activists say they’re not fooled by Trump’s new attention.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told NewsOne that the GOP candidate has shown little interest in connecting to Black voters. Indeed, Trump has made his appeals to Black voters at events in White suburban communities to White audiences.
“His recent comments regarding African-Americans are insulting and reinforce his record of ignoring our community,” Butterfield added. “Mr. Trump isn’t making an effort to talk to the African-American community, he is talking at us.”
While Trump and his team were in a conference room spinning a tale about the positive response from his messaging, a group of protesters gathered at the entrance of Trump Towers, warning communities of color not to trust Trump’s sales pitch.
Ramon Antonio, a union worker, told NewsOne he disagrees with everything Trump stands for. “He’s inconsistent, and always bouncing back-and-forth on issues,” Antonio said.
“We will not let this circus march through the Black and brown community,” Kirsten John Foy, a National Action Network regional director, told NewsOne.
Foy, one of the protest organizers, added that Trump wants to “turn back the clocks so far that African-Americans would have to concede all their civil rights achievements over the years.”
Trump is making a political move, explained the activist and former aide to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It would be a mistake, both men said, for Black people to cast their ballot for Trump.
“African-Americans have a lot to lose if Mr. Trump is elected president, and he has proven time and time again that he does not begin to understand the issues impacting our community,” said Butterfield.
Foy said Trump “sold out his base” by “flip-flopping” recently on immigration. That shows, he said, that Trump will say whatever he thinks is necessary to get elected.
PHOTO CREDIT: NewsOne, Getty