Over the past six weeks or so Donald Trump has reached out in various ways to African-American voters with mixed reactions all around. He promised a better economy, a crackdown on lawlessness that plagues the inner cities and curbing illegal immigration, which helps the low-skilled domestic job market.
All of these things have been more or less promised by other Republicans to deaf ears, but maybe the best case he actually made was listing everything that’s still fucked up or even more fucked up after decades of loyalty to the Democrats and asking “what do you really have to lose?”. It’s actually not a bad point and probably more compelling than vague promises of jobs, school vouchers, etc.
The reaction was all across the board, but most reactions were usually somewhere in the neighborhood of “laughable” and a “waste of time”. The black vote is usually somewhere slightly north of 90% Democrat and has been for some time. There’s always some pandering from the Republicans, but usually it amounts to nothing more than a PR stunt to other whites. “Democrats are the real racists!” “We’re the party of Lincoln” “These people share our conservative family values” etc. There’s a joke that what do you call the one black guy at a conservative event? The keynote speaker. There’s always a conservative black preacher around every Republican event.
Trump’s appeal got laughed at. There’s no chance in hell that Trump will “win the black vote” for various reasons. However, I think it’s actually a really smart move and one that other Republican candidates wouldn’t be bold enough to pull off, let alone be able to pull off.
Why is it smart? Well, where are all the black people at???? Some of the highest concentration of blacks in the US are in highly contested swing states. You’ve got Philadelphia and Cleveland in PA and OH. Then there’s Detroit in Michigan and Milwaukee in Wisconsin, states that either candidate can’t write off. Even Denver has a large “urban” black population amounting to tens of thousands in a tightly contested state. In this election we also can’t completely write off Maryland, with a large concentration in Baltimore. Hell, some people are saying that even New Jersey is up for grabs this time around.
Am I or anyone suggesting that Donald Trump can win over the urban black vote of the Rust Belt? Not at all. But I don’t think it’s too far out of the realm of possibility for him to take 12-15% of black voters – compared to the single digits of previous Republicans.
African Americans are about 13% of the population and probably somewhere in the range of the high single digits of the voting public, maybe ten percent. Taking 12-15% of this doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of the general public or even out of the African American voting pool for that matter.
Here’s what it does mean though – for every likely black voter above eight or nine percent that votes for Trump, that’s one vote that there’s about a 90% chance that would’ve went to the Democrats. So he would be adding to his vote count and more or less subtracting from Hillary’s at the same time.
A bump of a few percent in the black vote accounts for an increase of a few thousand votes (that would mostly come at Hillary’s expense) in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Maybe a thousand in Wisconsin. Even in a state like Iowa with a low black population it could amount to several hundred votes…and these states are often won by margins so slim that a thousand votes here and there could make all the difference.
…and the way our electoral college is set up, those few thousand votes in a few key states could make all the difference nationally.
I don’t think Trump is wasting his time here at all.