How Donald Trump Lost the Black Vote


There's a great scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent, John Travolta's introspective contract killer, complains to his bathrobe-clad heroin dealer about an unknown scoundrel who "keyed" the pristine paint job on his vintage Chevy Malibu. The wistful coda to his woeful tale is this: "It'd been worth him doing it just so I could've caught him doing it."

And that's where we are these days with Donald Trump — in a matter of weeks, he's propelled himself into the "I wish a motherf***** would" phase of his as-yet-undeclared presidential campaign. He's talked enough smack about President Barack Obama that it's time, as Bill Cosby demanded last week on Today, for Trump to run or just "shut up." It's time that Trump talked about Obama to his face.


After a monthlong "Birther" tour that stopped at Good Morning America, O'Reilly and The View to deposit the recycled claim that under Obama, "this country is going to hell," and Trump's thoroughly debunked "doubts" about Obama's citizenship — including his theory that the first black president's white grandparents fudged his birth records to get him on welfare — this week Trump went on Fred Dicker's radio show and presented the caveat that he's got "a great relationship with the blacks."

Not anymore. Let's shoot it straight: Plenty of black folks appreciate a blunt-talking guy dipped in expensive suits, as much as — if not more — than the next person. If Trump had coupled his reality-TV and Twitter-friendly style with the tolerant social views and "You can have all this, too" team-of-me ethos that he once touted, he could have been the one candidate in the 2012 Republican field to peel away a few black votes from Obama.

While African Americans still support Obama at an 85 percent clip, contrary to popular belief, black America can roll with a lot of the criticism about the president's leadership. But once Trump started arguing that Obama wasn't American, whatever goodwill he had in blackworld up and vanished.

If Trump is even wondering, here's why his passport to black America is probably canceled:

"The Blacks"

It's 2011. It's perfectly respectable to refer to African Americans as "black people," "the black community" and maybe even "black folks" — if you can carry it off. But "the blacks"? No.

Herman Cain

There's already a black guy doing Trump's material. Donald Trump, casino impresario — meet Herman Cain, pizza magnate. The former Godfather's Pizza CEO is the only African American in the GOP presidential field, he's been all over Obama's "radical socialism" for years and two weeks ago he jumped on the Birther bandwagon, too.


There's already a white guy doing Trump's material — Trump is the Joe the Plumber of Fifth Avenue.

Obama's Mama

In a hard-fought presidential race, you can say what you want about a guy's monetary policy, but you don't call his mother a liar. If Trump has any hard evidence that Obama's Hawaiian "Certificate of Live Birth" is in any way fraudulent, he should make it public. Otherwise, his whole shtick amounts to nothing but the most scurrilous slander.


The Issues

In his book, The America We Deserve, Trump said he was for universal health care. Now he's against it. A month ago he said he'd intervene to prevent a Libyan massacre "if we could surgically strike and stop that from happening." When Obama did it two weeks later, Trump wailed that it "makes absolutely no sense whatsoever." Seriously?


But at the end of the day, Trump's biggest problem is that for years, black political figures were overlooked as presidential contenders because they were seen as merely protest candidates. Democrat Rev. Jesse Jackson and Republican Alan Keyes were written off because voters concluded that they were only in it for the free publicity.

Then an African American became president, and instead of offering a serious critique of Obama's deficit spending — which didn't fix the unemployment problem but did plug the leak in a damaged economy — Trump pulled the ultimate publicity stunt and called President Obama an illegal alien while staring right at his birth certificate.


Trump runs in the most lavish celebrity circles. Surely — as they say — some of his best friends are black. He's probably golfed with Magic Johnson. He's probably got Reverend Run's number on speed dial. So he should just call one of them up and ask the question: "Am I still cool with, you know, 'the blacks'?"

Not anymore, Donald. "You're fired."

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter