Trump Doesn't Understand The Black Community, Strategist Says
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Donald Trump has been reaching out to African-American voters lately. Here, his case before a mostly white crowd in Michigan.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: Look how much African-American communities have suffered under democratic control. To those I say the following, what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?
MONTAGNE: That message doesn't seem to be resonating with African-Americans. Ron Christie is a prominent black Republican who worked in the George W. Bush White House. He now runs a political consulting firm. In an op-ed in The New York Times this week, Christie wrote Donald Trump has not yet earned his vote. His issue with the candidate, he wrote, is perfectly captured in a message Trump tweeted a couple of weeks ago.
RON CHRISTIE: What really angered and offended me was he said, the African-American community, you know, crime is up, poverty is up. I'm going to fix it, promise. Well, you know, all Blacks in America don't live in a monolithic existence. And, in fact, 25 percent of the African-American population in the United States lives at or beneath the poverty level.
Now, if you look at those statistics, that means an overwhelming majority of blacks in America don't. But Donald Trump did what he always does. He takes something to try to make a cute point instead of looking at the facts, instead of looking at the statistics. And it makes it look like blacks in America live this bleak, dismal existence and something that I find deeply offensive.
MONTAGNE: You also wrote, in this op-ed, that Trump doesn't seem to understand the African-American community. Now, that would be compared to the president you advised, George W. Bush. Talk to us about that.
CHRISTIE: President Bush, from my earliest days, really took seriously the mantra that we have to combat the soft bigotry of low expectations. And what he said to me was that there is a double standard in America that if you are of a particular skin color, people are going to say, oh, you must be successful or, oh, you know, you're going to do well in school.
But if you are African-American or if you're a Hispanic student then there's a bigotry against you really doing well and succeeding. And President Bush, throughout his administration, quietly and without fanfare tried to find ways to make sure that students of color could really close that achievement gap.
MONTAGNE: So you're talking about Republican policies, and, you know, there'd be Democrats who would argue that they're not the best, but that would inherently appeal to black people, but that, somehow, Donald Trump, in this current campaign, is missing that point?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think it's more than policies. I think actions speak louder than words. And in this particular instance, what Mr. Trump did is he said that he had gone to the first African-American church in his life. And in my piece in The New York Times I said how cliched.
You know, you've seen politicians from both political parties say, I want to do black outreach. Let me see, how would I do it? Oh, let's go to a church. Let's sway with the choir. Let's talk to the pastor. Let's speak from the pews and then leave. Just showing up to a church isn't going to get it done. You need to consistently consult with community leaders because they're your constituents, not because they're black.
MONTAGNE: Do you believe Donald Trump is really trying to reach out to the African-American voter or is his real target conservative, educated, white voters who are deeply uncomfortable with the whiff of racism that is connected to Trump?
CHRISTIE: I honestly don't know the answer to that question. But it's a question that depresses me because the answer is either, A, he's genuine in his outreach, but yet he's been running for president for more than a year and now, with 60 some odd days, has decided, oh, I'm going to now make a concerted effort of my platform to be outreach to people of color or, B, more cynically, is this designed to assure middle-class, white voters that, hey, I'm not as bad as you think. And by the way, vote for me because I like black people. Either way you look at the side of the coin that we're talking about, I don't like either of the answers that I've provided because it's a very cynical ploy on either side I think.
MONTAGNE: Ron Christie, thanks very much for joining us.
CHRISTIE: Pleasure to be with you this morning.
MONTAGNE: Christie is CEO of Christie Strategies and a former adviser to George W. Bush. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.