Our view: Mr. Trump believes he’s getting a lot more love from black Americans that is neither deserved nor happening
It’s been a big month for imagining you are important and beloved in the African American community. Just ask President Donald Trump. He made two claims in the past week or so that greatly overstate his relationship with that particular demographic, first claiming that black voter support for him has doubled (it hasn’t) and more recently asserting that he brought down black unemployment to record low levels (which is true only if you ignore everything that happened in the United States prior to Jan. 20, 2017).
Combined together, the claims provide a timely insight into how faulty reasoning, the right-wing media bubble and the president’s prevarications, or possibly delusions, can create a classic Alternative Fact of the Week opportunity. If President Trump believes himself a hero within the African American community, let him come visit Baltimore for a walking tour of the neighborhood of his choice and bask in his glory — or perhaps attend an NAACP convention like the one he declined to speak to last summer in Charm City. We can promise he’ll at least draw a crowd.
The president’s unlikely courting of the black community (or perhaps expectation of huzzahs from the black community) can, as usual, be traced to a Twitter post. Having recently gotten in trouble for his description of Haiti and African countries as “holes” of a scatological variety, Mr. Trump tweeted on Jan. 16 about how unemployment among blacks was down and that “Trump approval ratings with Black Americans has [sic] doubled. Thank you, and it will get even (much) better!”
Mr. Trump’s standings among African Americans are just as miserable as ever, but a misleading read of a recent SurveyMonkey poll — apparently misinterpreted first by Breitbart News and then “Fox & Friends” on Fox News, which compared the results with exit poll results to come up with the doubling estimate. What polls actually say is that Mr. Trump’s standing with blacks is just about as miserable as ever. The most recent Pew Research Center poll found a 76 percent disapproval rating of President Trump by black Americans after his first year in office. Only Hispanics (at 78 percent disapproval) are less impressed. The president’s overall disapproval rating is at 56 percent, his approval rating at 37 percent. A Pew survey from February of last year found 79 percent of blacks disapproving of Mr. Trump’s performance, so one might claim a very slight improvement, but it’s not statistically significant.
As for unemployment, it’s certainly true that the jobless rate among black Americans has declined to the lowest level — 6.8 percent as of December — that it’s been since 1972, but that hardly represents a sudden turnaround. The rate has been falling steadily since 2011, largely mirroring the overall decline in unemployment. President Trump’s claim is a bit like the anchor runner on a relay team claiming to have won the race when he was staked an enormous lead. He just had to show up for work.
Worse, a lot of self-congratulation about black unemployment misses the most important point — it’s still much higher than white unemployment. President Trump hasn’t done anything to address that disparity, certainly not with a tax bill that rewards the richest Americans and not with his indifference, if not hostility, to concerns of the black community, from the rise of white supremacists to his attacks on black sports figures like Colin Kaepernick and LaVar Ball whom he perceives as uppity. Overall, the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent as of December.
If President Trump, a leader in the birther movement that sought to invalidate Barack Obama’s presidency, is serious about improving his standing among African Americans, he need only disavow the neo-Nazis and show just a modicum of concern for the plight of black people. There’s no magic involved. Republican presidents of the past, including George W. Bush, were able to do it, and Mr. Trump could, too, if he had the slightest interest in doing so rather than pretending that he’s the community’s savior.
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