Donald Trump’s Black Voter Delusion

Donald Trump recently ramped up his Black voter outreach in the wake of poll after poll showing him failing to overcome a historically weak Democratic nominee in his bid for the White House. His Black outreach is equal parts condescension and bluster. He talked down to Black voters recently pointing out, inaccurately and out of context, that “you’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth are unemployed” before asking “What do you have to lose?” He also stated that he would get 95% of Black votes in his reelection campaign. Taken separately, these and other statements can charitably be said represent a deep misunderstanding of Black voters and Black life in America. Collectively, these statements reflect a deep delusion on the part of a candidate who has a history of race baiting.

Like most Republican nominees during the last eight decades, Trump has plenty of room for improvement. Credible recent polls show him with one or two percent support among Black voters. This is astonishingly low even among Republican nominees. If he ends up with two percent in November, then he would get half of what the 2008 nominee, John McCain, received in the historic election of Americas first Black President.

In the 22 presidential elections since 1936, for which even rudimentary polling was conducted, no Republican nominee has won a majority of Black votes. Only one, Thomas Dewey in 1944, received 40 percent, the high water mark in more than 75 years of presidential campaigns. Only three, Wendell Willkie, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, and Richard Nixon in 1960, got between 30 and 39 percent. More recent Republican nominees have done consistently worse. In the last 10 elections, only Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Bob Dole in 1996 won 12 percent of the Black vote. Even setting aside the historic Barack Obama-induced headwinds facing John McCain in 2008 (four percent) and Mitt Romney in 2012 (six percent), GOP nominees since 1968 have largely been in the 10 to 15 percent range among African Americans. Trump is on the verge of a historically bad performance. After all, even Barry Goldwater won six percent of the Black vote in a treacherous 1964 campaign.

Trump’s “outreach” assumes that a few events in which he cynically mentions Black people is all that will be necessary to win over large numbers of African Americans to his cause. This strategy only works if Black voters are suddenly overtaken by amnesia and forget the many ways in which he has previously treated Black people. Unfortunately for Trump, there is a decades-long track record to show who he really is. He took out a full-page newspaper ad in April 1989 calling for a return of the death penalty in the wake of the infamous “Central Park 5.” The ad poured rhetorical gasoline on the anger many Whites felt over the five Black kids, the oldest of whom was 16, who were arrested for brutally beating and raping a White woman. They confessed under duress and without counsel present. Years later someone else confessed to the crime. DNA at the crime scene confirmed his guilt and the innocence of the falsely convicted. Trump has never apologized or acknowledged his inflammatory rhetoric during this period.

He joined up with racists when he became the most prominent among the far right birthers who repeatedly alleged that President Obama was not born in the United States. He elevated his profile among White racial conservatives by using his broad platform to traffic the false claims. Ignoring the evidence of Obama’s Hawaiian birth, he claimed that his investigators found that he was not born in the United States. He never produced evidence, just headlines. When proven false, rather than acknowledge his wrongness, he talked about the “service” he provided by keeping the issue in the news. Even now he cannot bring himself to acknowledge that he was wrong on all the facts about Obama’s birthplace.

The birth certificate foolishness, moreso than anything else he has said or done during the campaign, has made him radioactive in the Black community. Even Black people who are lukewarm to Obama understand the racist undercurrent of birtherism. They also understand that Trump led the charge in stoking the flames of birtherism. Questioning the nationality of an obviously native-born American, after a 2008 campaign that would have been stillborn if he were ineligible to serve, was Trump’s attempt to deligitimize the first Black President. Black people understood that then and remember it now.

His campaign is replete with other racial missteps and dog whistles. Since announcing his presidential bid, he has consistently tweeted or retweeted White supremacist conspiracy theories, erroneous statistics regarding Black crime, and seemingly encouraged the physical attacking of Black protestors at his rallies. Let’s also remember that David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has repeatedly spoken very highly of Trump. Duke cited Trump as the inspiration for his decision to run for the U.S. Senate this year.

Any campaign that is serious about outreach to African Americans would at least do the following. First, it would include African Americans in significant decision making campaign positions. Second, it would advance policy proposals that reflect respect for and understanding of Black life. Third, it would constantly speak with an inspirational voice that encourages not demonizes. Fourth, it would advertise in Black media outlets and contract with Black vendors. More importantly than all this, serious outreach would be timely, not something seemingly done as an afterthought. Trump has failed on all counts. He has no significant African Americans in serious positions (No, Omorosa doesn’t count!). He has made no policy proposals that show an understanding of Black issues. A speech given barely more than three months before the election is not timely. There has been no inspirational rhetoric and no evidence of significant Black media or vendor engagement.

Donald Trump won the Republican nomination by swimming in the rotten river of racial stereotypes and invective. Those now talking about his pivot to a more presidential general election mode would do well to remember that Trump has been around. And Black people know him well enough that a few speeches here and there won’t change anyone’s mind.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University and the author of the book Republicans and the Black Vote. His next book, More than Just Partisanship: Conservatism and Black Voter Suppression will be published next year by New York University Press.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, August 27, 2016
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Ted Cruz: Courageous Traitor

The surreal spectacle of Texas Senator Ted Cruz standing at the microphone at the Republican National Convention was amazing to behold. He thumbed the eye of the nominee and his supporters. He ignored the pledge he made to support the Republican nominee. He left some convention delegates foaming at the mouth in anger, some shaking their heads in disappointment, and others quietly cheering. He imperiled his political future. Importantly, however, he also delivered a master class in political courage and treachery.

Courage? Yes, courage. It took courage to tell a hostile crowd of fervent Donald Trump supporters that they picked the wrong person to be their nominee. It took courage to tell those same delegates and voters around the country that they should not support Donald Trump. I know he didn’t use those words exactly, but make no mistake about it: “vote your conscience” is the same as saying “anybody but Trump.” It’s one thing to say it to friends at the dinner table. It’s another thing altogether to say it in front of thousands of people in a room and millions more watching at home.

But it was also the most traitorous political move in American political history. Benedict Arnold, Judas Iscariot, and Marcus Junius Brutus would be impressed. Political geeks know that party conventions are multi-day marketing events. Long past are the days in which they picked the nominee. Their only purpose is to promote and propel the nominee into the general election. Every person who speaks at a convention knows the deal and the expectation that they will assist in that effort. To understand this but use someone else’s party to promote your agenda, with all there is at stake, is the height of treachery. Cruz, yet again, put himself above the party.

Courage and treachery are common in politics. Rarely do you see it displayed by one person simultaneously. Cruz, who is conducting himself as someone who has already begun the 2020 campaign, delivered an amazing “daily double.” His 2020 plan, however, requires Trump to lose this year. Cruz is doing all he can to make sure his plan, not Trump’s is what prevails.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and author of Republicans and the Black Vote. His next book, More than Just Partisanship: Conservatives and Black Voter Suppression will be published in 2017 by New York University Press. He blogs at

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, July 21, 2016
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Trump Exploits Civic Ignorance

Gallons of ink (both actual and cyber) have been spilled trying to explain the sources of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's support. Voter anger lies at the center of most explanations. No one climbs on a limb when they say that a sizable portion of the American electorate is angry. Some voters are angry about immigration, the size of government, the national economy, and congressional dysfunction. Others can't understand why gays can marry and that Obamacare has been upheld, among other issues. While these are real and fundamental contributors to the angry electorate that is the wind beneath Trump's wings, there is a far worse factor driving his support: civic ignorance.

The American electorate is shot through with voters who don't know the basics on how the political process works. That ignorance opens them to all manner of ill-conceived, unconstitutional, or otherwise dead on arrival proposals masquerading as serious policy ideas. The marriage of illogical ideas and an angry electorate leads us to where we are now: a major party candidate -- in this case the one most likely to win his party's presidential nomination -- completely absent of reasonable ideas and winning by tapping visceral public ignorance.

He can't undo media shields without amending the Constitution, a long and arduous process to people who paid even the slightest attention to their middle school civics teacher. Or how about the one where he rips up existing trade agreements and negotiates new and better ones? His supporters seem to think that he can just snap his fingers and things will happen. That's not how our system works. But in a nod to hyper-cynicism, his strategy is to keep pushing voter buttons on items he knows will never happen. He's able to do it because he knows his voters don't know how the system works.

There are so many examples of Trump's policy positions that reveal this ignorance that it's hard to pick just one. Here are three of my favorites.

The Great Wall of Mexico. Trump supporters clearly want the wall. They seem to actually believe not only that Trump will build a wall, but also that a sovereign nation that is the target of this xenophobic policy will pay for it. It doesn't appear that many, if any, of his supporters have bothered to ask the following (admittedly unsexy) questions: How much will it cost? How long will it take? How, exactly, will Congress approve funding? The answer to the first two questions, based on conservative estimates, seems to be in the neighborhood of $20 billion (wall only, not labor) and four years. A government estimate says it could take $750 million annually to maintain. Basic knowledge of the legislative process shows that there are hurdles too numerous to list here that make clear there is no chance this wall will ever be built. Ignorant voters, however, continue to provide grist for the Trump mill. And he keeps playing them like a violin.

Ban Syrian Refugees. Trump generated some heat with his call to ban all Syrian refugees from entering the United States. That heat shed little light on the issue. He provided no real plan for actually doing what he wants to do. He never told the country how U.S. immigration authorities were to look at someone and guess whether they were Muslim. There are Christians from the Middle East that look like Muslims. And if they are refugees, it's quite likely that they won't have a passport to give you a hint. According to exit polling data following the South Carolina primary, and analysis published by<em> The New York Times</em>, Trump won twice as many votes from those who supported the ban than any other candidate.

Make iPhones in America. This is among the most reckless of his promises. It ignores decades of tax policy and overseas labor market changes that made it more profitable to offshore all sorts of American jobs and suggests that undoing that damage is pretty easy. Congressional Republicans in particular, sometimes aided and abetted by Wall Street Democrats, crushed the labor intensive, smoke stack industries in America and off-shored most of the remaining to cheaper labor markets in Asia. Rather than tell voters that those jobs are gone and won't ever return, presidential candidates often float the idea that those jobs will return if the circumstances change. But they won't change because Big Technology, Big Textile, Big Steel, and related industries prefer the current status quo: offshore jobs for less cost and more profit without fear of policy punishment. It's the best of both worlds. Trump knows this but promises otherwise.

What Trump is doing isn't new. Many politicians knowingly make promises on which they could never deliver. Trump is simply extending what has been happening in the GOP for years (examples like proposals to amend the Constitution to outlaw abortion, define marriage only as a union between a man and a woman, and limit congressional terms in office; tax cuts to spur the economy; and opposing Obamacare arguing that it will doom the economy come to mind pretty easily). The problem is that the lack of action on illogical policies only breeds more anger that things aren't getting done. A sizable chunk of American voters believe the country is going to hell because congressional Republicans won't stand up to President Obama. This is ridiculous. But ignorant voters believe it anyway.

The civic ignorance that has pushed Trump to the top of the charts can no longer be ignored. His supporters need to know that his promises are no more plausible than the other illogical ones they have bought over the years from other candidates. Their anger that "nothing gets done" is largely a function of the civic ignorance of wanting things to be done that can't. Or shouldn't.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University and author of Republicans and the Black Vote. His new book, More Than Just Partisanship: Conservatism and Black Voter Suppression, will be published next year. He can be found on his website,, and on Twitter: @MKFauntroy.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, March 16, 2016
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What Trump and Reagan Share

This year's Republican presidential nominating contest shows that nearly three decades after Ronald Reagan left office, his impact on the Republican Party endures. Republican candidates can barely give a speech without invoking the Gipper's name. It seems as if every Republican candidate worth his or her salt calls his name on a daily basis. Every candidate wants to demonstrate a connection to Reagan in an effort to be the "heir" to his political legacy. Donald Trump is no different, though his opponents and critics in the Party don't see any real connections between Reagan and the brash, misogynistic, fact-averse policy lightweight, and otherwise unqualified egomaniac. But the recent kerfuffle over former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke's favorable comments on Trump's campaign reminded me of one genuine connection between him and Reagan: KKK support.

I know Reagan acolytes would rather I not mention this, but the Klan formally and publicly endorsed Reagan's 1980 general election campaign, which he launched his general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi the location of the murder of three civil rights workers. Objections arose from all the usual sources noting that Reagan was playing to the hostilities of racial conservatives who wanted to rewind the societal clock to a time in which Black people had no rights Whites needed to respect. Reagan's handling of it was worse and more ham-handed than Trump's. Reagan took three weeks to issue a tepid, mealy-mouthed statement through his campaign rejecting the endorsement. He spent the intervening time between endorsement and rejection by solidifying his support among racial conservatives by not apologizing. While Trump has been rightfully skewered for his unbelievable response to this, by comparison, Trump was speedy in his half-hearted repudiation of Duke's words. While it is too early to know if this will cost Trump the nomination, the episode involving Reagan did not hurt him at all with conservative voters.

No one should conclude that Donald Trump is somehow taking the Grand Old Party down a new road of racial conservatism and footsie-playing with overt racists. He is not. He is simply trying to join Barry Goldwater in 1964 ("States' Rights"), Richard Nixon in 1968 ("Southern Strategy"), Ronald Reagan in 1980 ("States' Rights II"), on the Mount Rushmore of recent racist presidential campaigns. The modern Republican Party, which lauds Reagan at every turn, has been built, in large measure, on appealing to White anger and fear. Trump is just the latest hand on the wheel of this irresponsible political vehicle. But all you need to do is look at the demographic projections for the country to know that that is a losing strategy.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University. He is the author of Republicans and the Black Vote. His next book, More than Just Partisanship: Conservatism and Black Voter Suppression, will be published in 2017. You can find him on Twitter @MKFauntroy and on his website,

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Friday, March 04, 2016
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New Video: Michael Fauntroy Assesses Democratic Presidential Candidates

I participated in a one hour conversation assessing the Democratic presidential nomination campaign just prior to the February 10, 2016 debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that aired on WHUT-TV in Washington, D.C. Mo Ivory hosted the discussion, which also featured Keneshia Grant, Ron Harris, and Yanick Rice Lamb.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Monday, February 15, 2016
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Michael Fauntroy Breaks Down the Iowa Caucuses

I recently appeared on Al Jazeera America to break down the Iowa Caucuses. Click here for the video.


Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, February 04, 2016
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Some Thoughts Just Before the Final GOP Debate

Some thoughts:

We are entering the "lull" before the "storm" with America's attention largely shifting to the holidays. The Las Vegas debate will be the final time before voting begins for the candidates to make an impression on millions of voters at one time.

2. Donald Trump still leads in national polling but now trails Ted Cruz in Iowa. This is  major development that demonstrates the true weakness of Trump's support. Caucus polling is significantly more difficult than those for primary elections, so we don't really have a confident sense of how things will actually turnout.

A critical portion of Trump's support comes from voters who did not cast a ballot in the 2012 election. They are generally disconnected from politics. That reality, coupled with the difficulty in polling caucuses, leads me to conclude that a poor showing by Trump could dishearten his supporters in New Hampshire and cast real doubts on his ability to win there.

Cruz has nearly locked up the evangelical vote in South Carolina and stands likely to win that state.

3. Both Trump and Cruz cause heartburn for the GOP establishment. Trump is not a serious candidate and would get blown out in a general election. His presence on the top of the ticket would hurt Republican turnout in down ballot races in Congress and the state legislatures. That is good news for the Democrats, who would be in play to recapture the U.S. Senate.

Cruz is a serious candidate, albeit it one who has take unserious positions on some issues to inflame the grassroots. He has built his political persona on thumbing his nose at the establishment. While this energizes the right wing of the GOP and positions him to inherit most of Trump's voters when he leaves the race, it is not a recipe for trust and teamwork. Cruz is seen as a "loose cannon" who cannot be relied upon to work with the establishment.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Sunday, December 13, 2015
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Crafty Conservative Confederate Flag Move Obscures Larger Issue

Dylann Roof’s massacre of innocent, prayerful African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church forced the confederate flag back into the national dialogue. Roof’s brazen act of domestic terrorism led a number of southern conservatives, including some prominent elected officials, to call for the removal of the flag from all manner of public buildings. These calls have understandably been made and perhaps mark the beginning of a new period of enlightenment among some. But let’s keep our eye on the ball. I fear that all of the attention on the flag provides cover to politicians who want to ignore the larger problem. Some of the same politicians talking about bringing down the flag are doing so to avoid talking about the proliferation of guns.

Roof was able to do what he did not just because he was a racist. He committed this heinous act because he was a racist with easy access to a gun that allowed him to marry his warped fact- and context-free view of Black people (and Jews and immigrants) with a bravado that only a gun can provide. Yes, the confederate flag was his symbol. But it was the gun that created the tragedy.

The flag is a symbol of hate. No amount of historical revisionism can undo the fact that it was created to represent a movement to maintain slavery and the subjugation of African Americans. According to Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America, in a speech before the Virginia Succession Convention, “The great truth, I repeat, upon which our system rests, is the inferiority of the African. The enemies of our institutions ignore this truth.” Succession, and the flag created to symbolize it, was built on a foundation of racism and White supremacy. Allusions to “States’ rights” or “heritage” are simply attempts to apply historical deodorant to cultural stench.

It is a shame and disgrace that there had to be a mass killing to get some people to understand the symbolic power of that flag. But let’s not give so much energy to fighting a flag. The more profound and badly needed fight should be about America’s bloodlust at the barrel of a gun. It’s now pretty easy to be courageous and call for the flag to be removed. Far more courage needs to be mustered to deal with the gun lobby, which cowers otherwise intelligent people into pathetic political positions.

The gun lobby is the most powerful force in America. It’s ability to generate fear and irrational behavior among allegedly intelligent elected officials and others rush to defend it is amazing. Their power is so profound that southern conservatives would rather throw the confederate flag under the bus than talk about the real and pervasive issue of gun proliferation. Let that marinate for a while. The confederate flag, a heralded symbol of pride and southern heritage that has served as a foundational piece of southern culture is being taken down after more than 150 years rather than deal with the real issue of guns in America. Pulling down that flag can’t happen without its juxtaposition with a more powerful force – the gun lobby.

America will never be fully free until with deal with this very real issue.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, DC. His next book, More than Just Partisanship: Conservatism and Black Voter Suppression, is forthcoming. He blogs at

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Sunday, July 05, 2015
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Michael Fauntroy Discusses My Brother’s Keeper on NPR News

Here is the link to a report on NPR in which I discuss My Brother's Keeper.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, May 06, 2015
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Michael Fauntroy Discusses American Voter Preference on Minnesota Public Radio

Here is a link to a March 25, 2015 edition of MPR News on Minnesota Public Radio in which I join host Kerri Miller and Huffington Post reporter Amanda Terkel for a discussion about the potential 2016 presidental candidates and what voters are looking for in the next president. It's always good to be on with Kerri and I really enjoyed the discussion.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, March 25, 2015
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Michael Fauntroy Analyzes State of the Union Address on Minnesota Public Radio


Here is a link to the January 21, 2015 edition of The Daily Circuit on Minnesota Public Radio in which I join host Kerri Miller and Huffington Post reporter Amanda Terkel for a discussion of President Obama's State of the Union address and the Republican response.



Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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New Video: Michael Fauntroy Discusses Marion Barry on Fox5 DC

I had the pleasure of sitting with my friend and classmate Allison Seymour and her co-anchor Steve Chenevey to discuss Marion Barry's legacy.



Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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New Video: Michael Fauntroy Analyzes US Senate and Gubernatorial Races

Here is video of my appearance on WUSA-9, the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, in which I discuss the outcome of the Virginia U.S Senate race between incumbent Senator Democrat Mark Warner and Republican nominee Ed Gillespie and the Maryland gubernatorial race between sitting Lt. Governor Democrat Anthony Brown and Republican nominee Larry Hogan.


Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, November 06, 2014
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Michael Fauntroy Discusses 2014 Midterm Elections on Minnesota Public Radio

Here is a link to the November 5, 2014 edition of The Daily Circuit on Minnesota Public Radio in which I join host Kerri Miller and Julia Azari of Marquette University to discuss the results of the 2014 midterm elections.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
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2014 Takeover Takeaways: It’s All About Turnout

It was a great night for Republicans as they nearly swept all the important U.S. Senate races and won some governorships that seemed very unlikely. There has been a lot of handwringing about the role of President Obama, ISIS, and even ebola in the outcome. I think the results were driven by two seemingly conflicting emotions – anger and apathy. Add in the impact of age and other demographics in the makeup of the electorate and you get a clear understanding of what happened.

My Takeway

• Nearly two-thirds of voters in recent polls have expressed anger about the country’s direction. The president’s approval ratings are at their lowpoint in his administration. Roughly 60 percent of Republicans said their votes were anti-Obama votes. Congress has even lower approval ratings at 78 percent. A CBS poll showed that the economy was the most important issue facing the country. Nearly 80 percent of those who cited the economy are worried about its direction. Nearly two-thirds of voters think the country is on the wrong track. That helps to explain some of the results. We should be careful not to overplay the anger narrative, however, as very few House incumbents lost.

• Apathy is notable as well. Many of the younger voters who helped deliver Barack Obama to the presidency have not stood up for him in mid-term elections. The Democrats depend on notoriously fickle brew of younger voters and minorities, two groups that are inconsistent in their turnouts. In 2012, young voters, African Americans, and Latinos represented 19%, 13%, and 10%, respectively, of the national electorate. This year, those same groups represented 13%, 12%, and 8%, respectively, of the national electorate, according to CBS News. The smaller share of the electorate was not because White turned out in overwhelming numbers. It was because younger voters and minorities stayed home. This is a really key issue. These groups are impatient and are not yet ready to vote change from the top all the way down to the grassroots. And if my students are the gauge, there is serious doubt about the legitimacy of our political system. Young people are suspicious and think their votes don't matter.

• Age/Race/Ideology. Mid-term electorates tend to be older, Whiter, and more ideologically conservative, three characteristics that bode well for Republicans. In 2012, older voters, Whites, and conservatives comprised 16%, 72%, and 35%, respectively, of the electorate. This year, those numbers grew to 23%, 75%, and 36% respectively. While that’s great for Republicans in in mid-terms, it leaves them vulnerable in presidential elections. It also makes clear that America is a bifurcated electorate: one for mid-term elections. The other for presidential ones.

It should be noted, however, that there is also a strong structural component to these results. The Democrats had to defend a number of seats in red states. The Republicans will face the same challenge in 2016, in which there are a number of competitive seats currently held by the GOP.

Quick Hits

  • I think it's hard to call this a mandate for Republican governance. One of the issues that Republicans have consistently opposed, a minimum wage increase, passed in a number of traditionally red states: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Newly elected Republicans from these states will have a hard time arguing against a national increase given what has happened in their own states.
  • Republicans now have ownership in American public policy. They have to now produce legislation that can pass through both chambers. That is no small order given the recent factionalism within the GOP. Look for the tea party wing to push hard and cause continued problems for congressional leadership.
Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
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