Juan Williams: Black Republicans call out Trump — finally — on race

Historian Jon Meacham in July declared Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE tied with Andrew Johnson as “the most racist president in American history.”

Last week, Condoleezza Rice, the prominent Republican and former secretary of State, told CNN she doesn’t like how Trump talks about immigrants.

Trump needs to be a “lot more careful” in how he talks about race, she said, “because race is a very delicate and raw nerve.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet Trump supporters regularly ask me, "Why do you say Trump is racist?"

As Brian Kelly, a Trump supporter at a recent rally in North Carolina, put it to a New York Times reporter: “I hate this racist nonsense. It’s just a political ploy.”

So it was revealing this month when Gregory Cheadle, a black Republican made prominent by Trump in 2016 — “Look at my African American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?” Trump said at that time — said he is leaving the GOP because he can’t stand the racial blindness plaguing Trump supporters.

White Republicans have practiced “sidestepping the people of color issue,” Cheadle told PBS.

Polls back him up: 51 percent of all American voters said Trump is racist in a July Quinnipiac poll. But among Republicans, only 8 percent felt that way.

“Republicans are too sheepish to call [Trump] out on anything and they are afraid of losing their positions and losing any power themselves,” Cheadle said.

While Trump’s followers closed their eyes, Cheadle was shocked to see Trump telling four women of color, elected members of Congress, to “go back” where they came from. He had eyes wide open, too, when Trump called Baltimore, a black-majority city, “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

And then there is Trump’s “white superiority complex,” Cheadle said.

“When you look at his appointments for the bench: White, white, white, white, white, white, white,” Cheadle added. “That to me is really damning to everybody else because no one else gets a chance because he’s thinking that the whites are superior, period.”

Toward the end of Trump’s first year in office, The Associated Press analyzed the demographics of his judicial nominees. At that time, 91 percent of Trump’s judicial nominees had been white, and 81 percent male.

Cheadle’s criticism fits with what I hear from blacks in Congress and civil rights leaders about the daily reality of facing Trump’s racism. They can’t understand the absence of any leading black, Latino or Asian senior adviser at the White House.

Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanAuthor of anonymous 'resistance' NYT op-ed to publish book Juan Williams: Black Republicans call out Trump — finally — on race Michael Cohen denies Omarosa advising him in prison MORE was no senior adviser but she was a White House aide. Then she left on bad terms, saying: “It is very clear Donald Trump is a racist.” Trump called her a “lowlife” and a “dog.”

Trump’s problems with black Americans were further exacerbated when the lone black Republican in the House of Representatives, Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGroup of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' CNN's Bianna Golodryga: 'Rumblings' from Democrats on censuring Trump instead of impeachment Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy MORE (Texas), announced his retirement last month.

“The party is not growing in some of the largest parts of our country,” he said in a speech shortly before his retirement. “Why is that? I’ll tell you."

“Don’t be a racist. Don’t be a misogynist, right? Don’t be a homophobe. These are real basic things that we all should learn when we were in kindergarten,” Hurd warned.

While Trump’s supporters remain indifferent to these concerns, the white Democrat leading in polls to face him in the 2020 election sees it as a major political weakness.

Joe BidenJoe BidenRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Trump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE’s campaign kicked off with a video reminding voters of the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and Trump’s infamous distortion that there “were very fine people on both sides.”

“Hate is on the rise again, and we're at a defining moment again in American history,” Biden told the congregation at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., last week. “Hate only hides. It doesn't go away. If you give it oxygen, it comes out from under the rocks.”

Biden’s speech reflects two political realities:

ADVERTISEMENT

First, Biden knows that his path to the nomination depends on his strong support in the African American community. An Economist-YouGov poll earlier this month found Biden with 47 percent support among African Americans, Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE with only 14 percent black support and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Buttigieg says he doubts consulting work for insurer led to layoffs Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles MORE with 11 percent backing from black voters.

And second, Trump is not worried about the black vote. Despite his boasts about the low African American unemployment rate — which saw its largest decline under President Obama — he knows he is unlikely to beat the 8 percent black support he got in 2016.

Team Trump’s path to reelection depends entirely on maximizing the white vote and playing to white resentment toward immigrants and people of color.

Last year, I wrote a book called “‘What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?’ — Trump’s War on Civil Rights.”

The title was taken from Trump’s demeaning assessment of all black voters as jobless people resigned to life in violent neighborhoods with bad schools.

Even black Republicans like Gregory Cheadle, having taken a chance on Trump, now realize they had a lot to lose.

Get ready for a race-conscious 2020 campaign.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.