Presidential Campaign

Trump’s race card: How the GOP nominee is playing black voters

Greg Nash

Did Donald Trump use congregants of a black church in Detroit to send a message to conservative whites, who aren’t likely to vote for him because he’s a racist?


Will it work?

Probably not. 

The devil is in the details.

{mosads}Although experts believe there are a lot more people voting Trump than will admit to pollsters, the contest is close enough that Trump realizes he needs to find a way to bring the Reagan Democrats he’s alienated back into the GOP fold. These are the conservatives who aren’t ready to vote for him — but might — especially if he was nicer. 

One cynical way his campaign has set out to achieve that goal was a Saturday’s photo op and speech at a black church nestled in the heart of Detroit’s decaying west side.

If you have the stomach to sit through a video of Donald Trump’s 15-minute speech to congregants at Great Faith Ministries International in Detroit, you will notice a few things.

First of all he’s not typically bombastic. There is no shouting about “Crooked Hillary”, no promise of a wall to keep Mexicans out and no chorus of folks chanting “U.S.A.” 

You’ll see he’s very obviously reading something that’s been prepared and vetted. The Trump who has made more than one arena boil over with hate by a tossing a teaspoon of red meat into a cage of starving pit bulls is not in evidence here. 

Secondly, Trump at the very end of the speech, gives a black power salute to the congregants. He does during a moment of applause after he read from 1 John 4:12 in the New Testament. 

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Certainly the New Testament passage is intended for sycophantic boot-lickers in the Bible Belt. One can envision talk radio demagogues using Trump’s chosen passage to explain to a brain-dead AM radio audience how this proves the candidate has the best interests of all Americans at heart.

I don’t think anyone can explain Trump’s raised right fist.

Anomalies aside, Trump’s speech was loaded with the typically hollow platitudes that have become a hallmark of a bizarre campaign. They were as grandiose and empty as always.

“I fully understand that the African American community has suffered from discrimination and that there are many wrongs that need to be made right. They will be made right.”

No details accompanied that statement. Just as none followed the candidate’s claim that: “I want to help you build and re-build Detroit. I mean that.”

Back to the New Testament for a second. John’s letter contains a powerful warning — and one that should be heeded by any voter who might be swayed by Trump’s seeming empathy for Detroit’s poor. Those voters might remember Trump’s mocking of a disabled man. His plan to deport Muslims and his promise to build a wall to keep Mexicans out.

“Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness,” 1 John 2:9

Or as William Shakespeare put it, “The devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose.”


The problem is, none of this is going to shake out until after a debate or two.

If Hillary Clinton has a coughing fit or comes off squirrelly when talking about that FBI investigation, she’s going to be fighting uphill the rest of the way. 

If Trump reverts to being a bully or displays any sort of inability to understand the intricacies of policy — foreign or domestic, the joke will be on him and the Clintons will return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. 

In the end it will be all about images and when you strip away the substance, that’s all Trump gets out of Saturday — the image of him in a Detroit black church talking to white voters in Georgia and Arizona.

Girardot is a former editor and columnist with the Los Angeles News Group. He is co-author of true crime tales “A Taste For Murder” and the soon-to-be released “Cocaine Cops: An insider’s tale of brutality, greed and corruption in the NYPD.” Follow him on Twitter @FrankGirardot


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.






Tags Black church Donald Trump Donald Trump Election Election 2016 GOP Hillary Clinton moderate white voters nominee Race Republican

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video