The following fairy tale is based on a true story.
Once upon a time, in a kingdom not so far away, an evil orange emperor ruled the land. With a face resembling an orangutang’s hind parts (except for the chalky ovals encircling his eyelids) and golden windswept hair dyed like jaundiced straw, the king earned the titles Chief Oppressor and Village Idiot, Donald XIX.
When the townspeople decided to oust King COVID the 19th, they called upon Princess Kamala to ask if she could get her tribe of Black women warriors to help overthrow the candy corn-colored King. A neighboring warrior tribe, the Blackmen, also agreed to join them. The Latty Nexters from a village down South said they’d support the coup d’twat.
Queen Karen promised to help but the Kamala Warriors were wary of her loyalty. Karen usually sided with the Brads, whose army was great in number and loved King COVID. Four years earlier, the Karenthians and the Brad Boys had helped the Orange Menace ascend to the throne but Karen claimed it was her evil twin Becky.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
On the day of the coup, the candy crushers checked in. All of Kamala’s Black women showed up. Most of Latty Next community from the South was there. The Beckies and Karens sent a note and said they were running late, but no one expected them anyway. Even the Asian Army came through.
“Are you sure about the Blackmen?” someone asked. “Because we heard a lot of you were on King Candy Corn’s side.”
“Yes, we have a few defectors,” said the Blackmen. “But forget about Jason Whitlock. He couldn’t fight anyway. Also, we’re right here.”
Just before the first shot was fired, the freedom fighters surveyed the emperor’s army (which was easy because King COVID forbade his forces from wearing face coverings) and saw a singular figure on the horizon riding toward the battlefield on a white horse. He stood between the forces and demanded that both sides check at his PowerPoint presentation before the battle began.
Someone—no one knows who—looked at the lone wolf in disgust. They looked past the few Latty Nos who had pledged their loyalty to the COVIDmaster. They overlooked Candace Owens, Diamond and Silk, all of the Brad Boys and Karenthians who had joined King COVID and sighed.
“Hey Blackmen,” they sneered. “Come get your man, Ice Cube.”
Men Lie. Trump Lies. Numbers Do, Too.
Supposedly, there is a growing contingent of Black men who have been influenced by slavery options expert Kanye West and escaped from the “Democratic plantation.” Because Donald Trump has taken more Black people for rides than anyone since the Lincoln Navigator, there is a mistaken belief that the liar-in-chief has managed to garner a slight but increasing sliver of political support from Black men.
To be fair, that fairy tale came from a true story that was based on a myth. The myth, however, is based on a falsehood, which is based on a misunderstanding that was based on a lie.
The lie, however, is based on nothing at all.
To understand why this perception exists, one must first acknowledge three indisputable facts:
- There’s nothing like a Black woman: That is not an opinion. When it comes to politics, no constituency is as consistent as Black female voters. Black women turn out to vote more than Black men and vote for the Democratic Party more than any other demographic of the electorate.
White people are the only race or ethnicity that consistently votes Republican. Over the past 30 years, Black Americans, college-educated people, women, and every non-white demographic in America have shifted leftward. And, because Black women are statistically more educated, are not men and, by definition, not white, it makes sense that they favor Democratic politics more than any other group.
- Black men are men: Felony disenfranchisement alone (13 percent of Black men do not have the right to vote) means Black male turnout will always be lower than Black women’s.
And because Black men are, by definition, men, a few will always skew conservative. Even among the non-white groups that support the Democratic Party, males are more likely to support the GOP. Hispanic men vote for Democrats, but not as much as Hispanic women. The same is true for college-educated white men. And, even though the vast majority of Black men support Democratic candidates, a scant few (around 10-13 percent) always vote for GOP candidates... Well, almost always.
- Blame Obama: In 2008 and 2012, everyone except white people voted for Barack Obama. Not only did Black voters turn out for the former president in record numbers, but Obama Black voter turnout surpassed white turnout. For eight years, the “Obama coalition” included Black male conservatives who usually supported Republicans. After Obama left office, the Democratic leadership mistakenly assumed the Obama surge was because of the party and not the candidate or the Black voters.
- Someone fumbled the ball in 2016: Even after Barack Obama proved that, with enough enthusiasm and attention, Black voters could propel a Democratic candidate to victory, the Democratic party somehow didn’t bother focusing on Black voters in 2016. While white, Asian and Hispanic turnout increased in the 2016 presidential election, for a combination of reasons (disinformation, apathy, a poorly-run campaign, a vice president who garnered as much interest as an empty jar of mayonnaise) Black voters didn’t show up for Hillary Clinton. Michigan’s United Auto Workers Union is the biggest Black employee organization in the entire state but Hilary Clinton didn’t visit a single UAW hall in Michigan during her campaign.
She lost Michigan by less than one half of one percent.
Those four facts explain why this misconception exists. According to the Census Bureau, Black male turnout decreased by 6.6 points in the election of 2016 while Black female turnout decreased by 5.7 percentage points. Because all Black turnout decreased, the Trump coalition appears larger. Essentially, no one showed up to the polls in 2016 except the most faithful Democrats and all of the negro conservatives. In reality, Trump just won back the no shape-up-having Black men who had traditionally voted Republican except that one time they voted for Obama.
In fact, Trump earned a smaller percentage of the total Black vote than any president in the last 40 years. Less than Reagan. Less than Romney or McCain. So, yes, Trump got 14 percent of the Black male vote but it was 14 percent of a smaller pool of Black men. In 2004, Bush won 13 percent of the Black male vote, up from eight percent in 2000. Bob Dole got fifteen percent in 1996. George H. W. Bush got thirteen percent in a loss to Bill Clinton. Simply put, Trump got the small contingent of negro conservatives that, aside from Obama, Republicans usually get.
Barack Obama was the unicorn, not Trump.
If every single Black male Trump supporter in 2016 had voted for Hillary Clinton instead, she still would have lost to Donald Trump. Of course, Hillary lost a few battleground states (Michigan, Pennsylvania Wisconsin) by less than one percent, so how can I be so sure?
Well, we could create a complex algorithm that combines the Black voting population in each state with the exit polls. We could come up with a number of Electoral College scenarios. We could recall the fact that the 13 percent of Black Trumpers was a small part (about four percent) of the total 2016 electorate and Clinton overperformed with Black men in those battleground states. Or, for the sake of time, we could dismiss the entire argument with a fourth-grade math problem:
What’s 13 percent of four percent?
No, my friend, I’m not saying Black men did not flock to Trump...
Math is saying it.
But the polls say...
This anti-mathematical narrative isn’t just being pushed by the Black version of QAnon conspiracy theorists ( I’m still deciding whether they should be called Nigganon or Ice Cubanon). Social media pundits, news outlets like the Washington Post and celebrities on both sides of the aisle are musing about the perceived groundswell of Black male support for Donald Trump.
Unlike the counterfactual 2016 storyline where a sliver of Black men switched sides back to the side they were always on, this 2020 remix is kinda factual because it’s based on flawed polling data and a lack of understanding about how math works.
To reflect the demographics of the area they survey, polling companies adjust their polls according to the demographics of the area they survey. Because Black and Hispanic citizens are less likely to answer phone surveys, pollsters usually weight the polls (or multiply the answers of Black people).
For instance, if Gallup polls 1000 likely voters and only get 100 Black respondents (10 percent), they multiply the Black responses to reflect the fact that the electorate is 13 percent Black. Because of this, a single Black person’s answer could look like as many as 10 people share the same belief. However, weighting a poll also increases the margin of error (which is the white way of saying: “the fuck if I know”).
Take the most recent Presidential Preferences Survey from trusted pollster Pew Research. It shows six percent of Black women and 11 percent of Black men leaning toward Trump. While it may be true that 91 percent of Black women support Biden, it also means that Trump’s support among Black women has tripled over the last four years. This data also shows that fewer Black men support Trump now than in 2016.
I rest my case.
But just to be sure, let’s check Pew’s margin of error.
Nine point six.
As you can see, the margin of error for Black men is higher than every other race except for Asians, whose answers Pew didn’t even bother to disaggregate by gender. So, according to Pew, as many as one out of every five Black men could be Trump supporters or Trump could have almost zero support among Black men. This is why the same pollster can show Trump with 24 percent support among Black men in February and only eight percent in June.
Yes, that happened.
But if it’s all a myth, why is #BlameBlackMen trending on Twitter? Why shouldn’t we trust the sources of information that paint every Black woman as an angry hussy and inform us that Black men are thugs who are waging a war against the brave police officers across America?
Perhaps this narrative is a perfect example of confirmation bias. It is easy to look past the scores of Black men who have endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket and point to 50 Cent and Yeezy. Others speculate that the rhetoric comes from contrarians who either want attention or won’t vote anyway. If only there was a trustworthy source that could give us some Black-specific research and actual data.
The man with all the answers
“There is a bigger group of Black men that support Donald Trump than there are that will vote for Donald Trump,” explains Terrance Woodbury, a partner at Highly Insightful Targeting (HIT) Strategies, a messaging and strategy firm that compiles, researches and analyzes data for hard-to-reach communities including women, millennials and minorities.
Terrance Woodbury knows Black people.
Woodbury is a veteran political datastician who spent years conducting polling and focus groups for candidates in local, state, national, and international elections, along with companies such as Uber and Google. After working everywhere from Brookings Institute to Brilliant Corners Research, Woodbury and HIT Strategies are at the forefront of collecting and extracting the polling data that has been glossed over in presidential politics.
“The way that black voters are typically considered in data is reducing them to a single column and a cross tab, uh, that is just ‘Black voters,’” Woodbury told The Root. “And oftentimes it’s even less than that. It’s a single column or a cross tab that is just reduced to ‘POC’ or ‘non-white voters.’”
So, you know that Black Agenda thing Ice Cube is putting together? Well, one has already existed for months. Created by Black Futures Lab, the Black Agenda 2020 is the collective work of Black policy experts, elected officials, academics, and activists. And when the Black Futures Lab teamed up with HIT Strategies to figure out messaging for the 2020 elections, their research revealed that Black male voters were as dissatisfied with Donald Trump as Black women. (74 percent for Black men, 78 percent for women).
Of course, Black men tend to be more socially conservative, according to Woodbury. However, he hasn’t seen any demonstrable evidence that Trump’s influence is increasing among Black men. In fact, in HIT Strategies’ early vote tracking, their data shows only 7 percent of Black men who voted early picked Donald Trump for the next president.
Yes, the available data shows the opposite of what everyone is saying.
And even among the MAGroes, Woodbury says his focus group research shows that the support for Trump is less a reflection of Trump and more of a reflection of Black men’s disappointment with the politics, government and the entire two-party system.
“There is a unique appeal to Donald Trump that is attractive to some black men moreso than your typical Republicans,” notes Woodbury. “These are men who are cynical towards the system—not just Democrats or Republicans—and Trump represents this disruptive force to them. But what [the data] shows is that these men are also the least likely to vote.”
“For a large group of Black men, their support of Trump is punitive,” Woodbury added. “It is an attempt to punish Democrats and the system more broadly for the lack of progress, right? And so I don’t, I don’t expect that he’s going to have much higher than the 13 percent that he had in 2016.”
While it may seem obvious that people ranting in barbershops about “the system” are less likely to vote, the polling veteran notes that the lack of data on Black voters makes it is easy for both sides—Trump acolytes and progressive finger-pointers—to push this misinformation.
“The answer to this problem is more diversity in research,” Woodbury noted. “We have to recruit and train and develop more diverse researchers that look more like the communities that we research. Because, without the data, people are free to believe anything about us or paint with broad stereotypes.”
Of course, instead of spreading conjecture and hearsay, they could have just as easily examined the data that shows Black men support Trump less than any other group in America besides Black women. A quick Google search would have revealed that Black men are three times more likely to vote Democrat than any white person and twice as likely than an American of Hispanic descent. Asked why mainstream media outlets wouldn’t contact a firm like HIT strategies instead of speculating based on made-up mythology, Woodbury, answered quickly:
“I don’t know,” he said.
I waited to see if he was calculating the data or trying to reach a conclusion. After an interminably long pause, Woodbury sighed into the phone receiver and gave a revealing answer.
“I have not been able to come up with an answer to that question.”
To be clear, any Black Trump supporter is an idiot.
Also, some Black men are idiots.
But, as stupid as he may be, Trump isn’t making more Black idiots. Those Black men have been idiots since time immemorial. There were Black men who thought Reagan was a God, Martin Luther King was a troublemaker and slavery was a choice (OK, maybe that last one is a stretch. No one would believe something so stupid).
And none of this is to say that Black men are doing as much as they should be. More Black men should get engaged in the political process because we are in an all-hands-on-deck situation and Black women need all the help they can get. They’re out here doing their work and our work.
But we can also give Black women their props without creating a fictional villain. Two things can be true. Black men can (and need to do better) and the small cabal of stupid Black male Trump supporters isn’t large or significant enough for us to manufacture a villain out of.
Besides, how would you talk some sense in a MAGAnegro anyway? My grandmother always said:
“Ugly people know they’re ugly; crazy people know they’re crazy but stupid people have no idea they’re stupid.”
Or maybe that’s just a story I heard.