Increasingly insane Detroit editor: Trump speech to black church is a sinister racist plot

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Monday September 05th, 2016


The media's Donald-Trump-as-racist narrative is apparently unfalsifiable. No matter what Trump does, it's proof he's a racist. If he ignores black voters altogether, that makes him a racist. If he appeals for black votes in front of a largely white audience, as he did a few weeks ago, that's proof that he's a racist.

And if he actually goes to a majority black area to speak at a mostly black church? That's the most racist thing of all!

Insane, you say? Well of course. Which is why we're getting it from Detroit Free Press opinion editor Stephen Henderson, who not many years ago was what I would describe as a pretty reasonable liberal. That doesn't mean he was a liberal who's kinda sorta conservative. No, he's completely liberal and always has been. But Henderson was the kind of ideological adversary who didn't make it personal and didn't impugn your motives because you disagreed with him.

I don't know what happened to him, but this is the guy who just a few months ago wrote a column wishing that Republican legislators would be savagely killed by a wild animal while being flung off the Mackinac Bridge. Now, on the occasion of Donald Trump's Saturday visit to a black church in Detroit, Henderson informs us that Trump is a racist for going there.

Why? If I understand the theory, Trump knows he will never get any black votes, so having the audacity to go there and seek them anyway must be a way to give cover to suburban whites who think he's a racist too. See? Look! Here I am with the blacks! I'm not a racist, suburban white people!

That's Henderson's theory, anyway:

But even in coming to Detroit, he’s not going to address black voters or deal with our issues. He has no interest in that — as his rhetoric and actions have shown.

Instead, he's aiming to use his appearance in a black city, with black people, to boost his stock among white middle-class voters, a swelling number of whom also believe he’s a racist, and whose votes he is more likely to recapture with a softening of that image.

Shane Goldmacher, a political reporter with Politico, explained last week on Detroit Today, the radio show I host on the local NPR affiliate, WDET 101.9 FM.

“He can’t win the general election with the share of white, middle-class voters who think he’s a racist,” Goldmacher said. So he’ll come to Detroit, be seen with black people — a popular and likable former GOP rival and a pastor.

And he’ll hope that it's just enough to satisfy some white voters' concerns that he's a bigot. Black voters don't really figure into the equation — because he has so alienated them so far.

The numbers bear this out. A recent Quinnipiac poll  found nearly two-thirds of likely voters, 59%, say bigotry is at the core of Trump’s message — a percentage far too high for him to win in November.  Meanwhile, Trump’s support among African Americans is at historic lows — 2% nationwide, and zero in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a July NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.

Trump doesn’t have a chance with blacks because of his policy shortcomings and the racist appeals he has already made to black voters. He’s not going to adopt a slate of policies that would encourage investment in the things that would ease suffering in places like Detroit; that would lose him too many white voters.

But for white voters who are concerned that he’s a racist, there may be a simpler way to back them down. Coming to Detroit’s a gesture of outreach. Touring the city with Carson and meeting with a pastor are symbols — empty, but visible — of connection with the black community.

It could be good cover for some voters: “He went to Detroit. He met with black people. He’s not a bigot.”

Of course, this is beyond cynical strategy — not just in terms of black people, but also whites.

When Henderson says Trump has "no interest in our issues," what that really means is that Trump doesn't believe the right solutions are the  ones Henderson favors. But here's the appearance in question, so you can judge whether Trump was merely perpetrating a cynical racist ploy:

Here's the thing: If anyone is not voting for Trump because they think he's a racist, it's not because of anything Trump has said or done. It's because they've believed agenda-driven journalists like Stephen Henderson who portray statements as racist that are in fact completely innocuous, even though they may be quite unconventional and perhaps even crude by the usual standards of politics.

Now certainly, anyone can view Trump's words to the black congregation and claim they're insincere, but that again is what makes the Trump-as-racist narrative unfalsifiable. If he says something decent and respectful, it's just a ploy and he's just cynically trying to use black people. A "journalist" who claims he can discern meanings other than those suggested by a man's words has essentially turned his own imagination into his primary source. The fact that so many mainstream journalists have done this with respect to Donald Trump explains why so many voters believe the Trump-as-racist narrative. They keep hearing it, so it must be true. Now you see how thin the evidence for it really is.

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