If perchance you need further proof that Donald Trump would be a disastrous GOP nominee – because a candidate who’s widely perceived as a racist cannot win the White House – just check out his fiasco with the black pastors.
This five-day episode, which ended in abject hilarity yesterday, is a metaphor for his entire campaign. The carnival-barker bombast, the Trumpy chasm between hype and truth – it’s all there. Let us review, shall we?
It all began last Wednesday, when Team Trump officially announced that, five days hence, the leader “will be joined by a coalition of 100 African American Evangelical pastors and religious leaders who will endorse the GOP frontrunner after a private meeting at Trump Tower.” Given the fact that Trump had long been insulting minorities, blacks and Hispanics alike, the news of his successful outreach loomed huge. And it was played that way in the press; The New York Times, citing the press release and interviewing one pro-Trump source, headlined: “Black Pastors Expected to Endorse Donald Trump.”
Only one problem. The whole thing was a con job.
Turned out, most of the religious leaders on Team Trump’s list had no intention of endorsing the guy. When the campaign publicly named them as converts to Trumpism, it was news to them. They’d been invited to meet with Trump, that’s all. They didn’t realize that they were expected to kiss his ring, or, worse yet, that the ring-kissing would be announced in advance.
So, within hours last Wednesday, the hype began to unravel. When pastor-invitee Corletta Vaughn of Detroit learned that she had been listed as an endorser, her first reaction was: “You’ve got to be kidding me.” She hadn’t even agreed to attend. She quickly posted on Facebook that Trump was “an insult and embarrassment.”
She was quickly joined by other pastors. Clarence McClendon of Los Angeles wrote on Facebook that the religious leaders were being suckered: “The meeting was presented not as a meeting to endorse but as a meeting to engage in dialogue.” Paul Morton of Atlanta took refuge on Twitter, squeezing his ire into the requisite 140 characters: “I was asked 2 meet with Mr. Trump too but I refused because until he learns how to respect people you can’t represent me thru my endorsement.”
Hezekiah Walker of Brooklyn echoed McClendon, explaining in an Instagram post that he’d had no intention of endorsing Trump, that he’d only agreed to educate Trump about the “injustice and racism that still plague our communities as well as enlighten him about his views (of) our culture.”
Walker and McClendon ultimately boycotted the meeting – which surely pleased the black religious leaders who contended, in an open letter to Ebony magazine, that the Republican frontrunner should be avoided at all costs: “Trump routinely uses overtly divisive and racist language on the campaign trail….Trump’s racially inaccurate, insensitive and incendiary rhetoric should give those charged with the care of the spirits and souls of black people great pause.”
Meanwhile, Trump surfaced yesterday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and insisted – without a shred of evidence, natch – that his invitees were being pressured to bail: “Probably some of the Black Lives Matter folks called them up and said, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be meeting with Trump because he believes that all lives matter.”
Actually, the pastors were bailing in droves because (a) they resented being pressured by the Trump campaign for endorsements they’d never agreed to give, (b) they detest Trump’s string of insults, like when he recently retweeted phony neo-Nazi stats that purport to show that 81 percent of white homicide victims are killed by blacks, and (c) they basically mirror black sentiment about Trump. As a recent Fox News poll reports, only 10 percent of black people view Trump as trustworthy.
There was indeed a meeting yesterday – albeit with a diminished number of pastors, most of whom were in no mood to endorse. Brehon Hall of Toledo, Ohio, on the way to the meeting, said of Trump, “It appears as if he’s a possible racist.” Victor Couzins on Cincinnati, a committed non-endorser en route to the meeting, said: “It’s very unfortunate the way he has talked to not just the African-American community, but the things he has said about women, Mexicans and Muslims.” Other attendees said later that they’d asked Trump to apologize for his incendiary remarks. By the time it was over, Trump’s tally of endorsers was virtually zip.
Nevertheless – and brace yourself, because I know this will shock you – Trump insisted, post-meeting, that everything in the room had been beautiful and terrific. He said there was “great love in the room,” and that he had garnered “many many endorsements,” even though his campaign refused to list any. One attendee told The Times, by phone, that the meeting had been “very successful,” but it later turned out that this attendee was not a pastor at all, that he was some Republican yokel from Georgia. In the end, a grand total of one pastor came forward to endorse.
This fiasco won’t hurt Trump in the short run, of course, because his angry white loyalists couldn’t care less that black people bailed on him. But a Republican nominee who’s detested by the minority electorate (including Hispanics) can’t win the White House, not with the demographic math of the 21st century. What’s happened, over the past five days, is merely fresh evidence that Trump looms as the GOP’s worst nightmare.