Monday, September 5, 2016
A Kinder, Gentler Trump?
In one of his most daring "pivots," Donald Trump is trying to recast himself as Abe Lincoln. Of course, most of us are laughing at this latest transformation attempt, but it seems a few persons are taking him seriously. The most important thing is that it has everyone talking.
This has been primed by conservative pundits who have tried to cast the Democratic Party as the one with the KKK heritage, not the Republican Party. It doesn't matter that David Duke and other noted former KKK leaders have long identified themselves with the Republican Party, the GOP would like us to think that it still holds Abe Lincoln close to its heart.
What makes it even more strange is the number of noted conservatives who have had some pretty harsh things to say about Honest Abe. Judge Nap has been one of the harshest critics of Lincoln. In his mind, Lincoln imposed the Civil War on us rather than letting slavery die a natural death. Nap added that Abe's tyrannical war made him the most "murderous" president in history. It doesn't matter that Nap's claims have been refuted by historians, he persists in his views.
But, here is Trump going out of his way to embrace Lincoln in an unexpected attempt to lure Black voters. His appearance at the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit was a well staged event. He has already managed to convince a few Black clergy men that he has their best interests in mind, and here he was dressed in a prayer shawl and quoting 1 John 4:12, indicating that someone, possibly Ben Carson, provided a helping hand in reaching out to his newfound audience. It is highly doubtful Trump arrived at that verse on his own.
Of course, most Blacks long ago turned their backs on the Republican Party when it didn't stand up for them during the Civil Rights struggle. It took a wily Democratic, Lyndon B. Johnson, to finally bring the Civil Rights Act to a vote in Congress in 1964. It was only after Johnson reminded Republicans that they once were the Party of Lincoln that many of them voted for the bill, offsetting the mass defection of the Dixiecrats. Strom Thurmond immediately split with the Democratic Party and threw his support behind Goldwater, who bucked the GOP by voicing his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. This should tell anyone where conservatives stood on the issue, especially southern conservatives. But, apparently, this is far enough in the past that a wily populist can reframe the issue to woo voters who have bad memories or don't watch the History Channel.
The GOP today is the direct descendant of the split that occurred in the 1964 election, with most former Dixiecrats opting for the Republican Party, and the relative handful that stayed in the Democratic Party consistently voting Republican in national elections.
This is a fact not lost on Black voters, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic in state and national elections, but Trump has said he wants to change that. He seems to believe he can convince Blacks that he better represents their interests than does the Democratic leadership, and claimed at a recent rally that by 2020 he would have 95 per cent of Black support. That's a staggering number! Even at the height of Dwight Eisenhower's administration, when he sent the National Guard to escort Ruby Bridges to a white elementary school in New Orleans, he could only count on 39 per cent of the Black vote in 1956. Republican presidential candidates have not seen anything close to that amount of support since.
We have come to expect these boasts from the Trumpster, but all this begs to ask why is he wasting so much time in Detroit and other places where he doesn't have a hope in hell of winning? I suppose by at least making a show of support for persons outside his political comfort zone, he increases his brand appeal to disaffected voters who are having a hard time embracing Hillary, especially since she hasn't ventured very far out of her comfort zone. It seems to be a tactic he picked up from Bernie, who accepted an invitation to visit Jerry Falwell's Liberty University early on in the primaries. It didn't do Bernie much good, and it is doubtful it will do Donald much good, but when you are down in the polls you have to take a few risks.
It does seem to have given him a bump in the polls, but I think his resurgence is largely thanks to a rather quiet Hillary these past couple weeks, who seems a bit too content to sit on her lead. Of course, when Donald is stealing all the limelight by meeting with Mexican leaders and doing inner city prayer meetings, it is pretty hard to compete for attention. Maybe, Hillary should visit the Mormon Temple? After all, it seems Utah is up for grabs this election cycle.
You have to hand it to Donald for bucking trends the way he does. It's amazing he can hold onto his rural white base of support with all this minority outreach. What he seems to be hoping is that he can appeal to the social conservatism among Blacks, using the same "Christian" message he has used so effectively among White Evangelicals to cross over and appeal to Black Evangelicals. Good luck, Donald!