‘I think that he’s trying to appeal to white voters that he’s not racist,’ he says.
Donald Trump declared on Tuesday night that the Democratic Party had “failed and betrayed” black voters. But the Rev. Al Sharpton and other liberal black leaders are saying it’s Trump who’s full of false promises.
“If he cares about black voters, he certainly has shown a complete disregard and disrespect for addressing them and their issues,” Sharpton told POLITICO in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know what’s in his head, but I know where his body has been. And it’s been absent in terms of black concerns and black people and black audiences throughout his campaign.”
While a shakeup of Trump’s campaign on Wednesday largely overshadowed his apparent attempt to improve his meager standing among African-American voters, Sharpton and others said his effort was no overture to African-Americans anyway.
Sharpton, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton, noted that Trump delivered remarks “with hardly no blacks in the audience” during his late-night rally in West Bend, Wisconsin, where he blamed Clinton for poverty and crime in America’s inner cities, called for more police on the streets and vowed to appoint the nation’s top prosecutors and judges and to increase enforcement of federal laws.
“To put more police out there without changing policing and without dealing with the issues is to increase the tension and increase of potential problems, not decrease,” said Sharpton, who called Trump’s rhetoric on policing the “antithesis” of what should be done. “So either he has no understanding of the issue or he’s taking an absolute, adversarial position to where the country’s moving, or a combination of both.”
Symone Sanders, a Democratic strategist and former Bernie Sanders press secretary, blasted Trump for verbally attacking protesters and calling Clinton a bigot in his speech.
“Donald Trump’s speech last night was not only disingenuous, it was dangerous, the numbers were bungled and it lacked facts,” Sanders said during a CNN panel discussion. “I don’t know Donald Trump personally, but I do know that the words coming out of his mouth reek of racism and bigotry.”
DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter activist, tweeted that Trump’s speech was intended to be polarizing, summarizing his pitch to black voters as “‘rioters, robbers, looters’ are bad,” “black people are dumb democrats” and Trump isn’t Clinton.
In a phone interview with POLITICO, Mckesson said Trump has made no attempt to connect with the black community and slammed his remarks as racist, problematic and devoid of the truth.
“He was talking about black people to a non-black crowd. That was his intent,” Mckesson said. “He was racist even in those remarks. Saying that immigrants are gonna take the jobs of black people is racist. That is a problematic and racist statement.”
What Trump has done, he continued, is create “an alternate reality and forced everybody to meet him there. He is not engaged in the act of truth telling.”
Sharpton, Sanders and Leah Wright Rigueur, a public policy professor at Harvard, pointed to invitations for Trump to speak to the NAACP, National Urban League and the joint convention of black and Hispanic journalists as places the real estate mogul should have spoken if he cared about reaching out to African-Americans and getting their votes.
“I think there’s a misperception that just because we’re frustrated with the party, that means we’re going to turn around and vote for the candidate that we’re even more frustrated with,” Wright Rigueur told POLITICO. “There is an opening right there, but part of getting that opening means doing the things that are necessary in order to win over those highly skeptical voters who already hold unfavorable views of Donald Trump for a number of different reasons. That speech wasn’t it.”
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