Trump’s 360-de­gree ‘pivot’

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robin­son

— Don­ald Trump’s “pivot,” des­per­ately hoped for by sane Repub­li­cans, was over be­fore it be­gan. He couldn’t pre­tend to be in­clu­sive and states­man­like for two days in a row if his life de­pended on it.

Any­one who doubts this should only con­sider Trump’s idea of an ap­peal to African-Amer­i­can vot­ers: “What do you have to lose by try­ing some­thing new like Trump? What do you have to lose? You’re liv­ing in poverty. Your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 per­cent of your youth is un­em­ployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

That’s right, black Amer­i­cans. The Repub­li­can can­di­date for pres­i­dent says you live Hobbe­sian lives of mis­ery and de­spair, with no op­tions, no prospects, no joy, no hope. Oh, and he wants your vote.

For the record, sigh, let me take a minute to un­pack the stun­ning ig­no­rance in that os­ten­si­ble pitch for African-Amer­i­can votes, which Trump made Fri­day be­fore a vir­tu­ally all-white au­di­ence in Michi­gan. The black poverty rate is about 27 per­cent. That’s far too high — the poverty rate for whites is about 10 per­cent — but the fact is that most African-Amer­i­cans lead com­fort­able mid­dle-class lives.

The black un­em­ploy­ment rate is about 9 per­cent — again, too high but noth­ing like the im­pres­sion Trump seeks to give. And his claim of 58 per­cent black youth job­less­ness is an out-and-out lie. The only way he can ar­rive at that fig­ure is to in­clude all young peo­ple be­tween 16 and 24, in­clud­ing those who are at­tend­ing high school. If you cal­cu­lated white youth un­em­ploy­ment that same way, it would be nearly 50 per­cent. But it’s ridicu­lous to count as un­em­ployed a bunch of kids who, you know, have to do their chem­istry home­work.

Does Trump have the faintest clue what black Amer­ica is re­ally like? From the ev­i­dence, no. But I can’t be­lieve he ac­tu­ally thinks he has a chance of win­ning sig­nif­i­cant African-Amer­i­can sup­port, given the way he has in­sulted Pres­i­dent Obama, dis­missed the is­sue of po­lice vi­o­lence and ac­qui­esced in sup­port from the white-su­prem­a­cist fringe. Trump has reg­is­tered as low as 1 per­cent or 2 per­cent among black vot­ers in na­tional polls — and his re­marks last week prob­a­bly cost him sup­port.

In­stead, he must have been seek­ing to ap­peal to white vot­ers who can’t bring them­selves to vote for him be­cause of the racist tone of his cam­paign. Mes­sage: I care about African-Amer­i­cans, even if it’s pretty ob­vi­ous that I don’t know very many.

Hey, at least it worked with Kellyanne Con­way, Trump’s new cam­paign man­ager. “I’m white,” she said Sun­day on ABC’s “This Week.” “I was very moved by his com­ment.”

The de­sire to con­vince whites he is not a flam­ing bigot may also be why one of the pil­lars of Trump’s cam­paign — the prom­ise to round up and de­port 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants — has sud­denly gone wob­bly.

If elected, Trump could never ac­tu­ally carry out such a mas­sive cam­paign of eth­nic cleans­ing. But an­tipa­thy toward Lati­nos who are “flood­ing” across the border, al­legedly to take Amer­i­cans’ jobs and com­mit hor­ri­ble crimes, is a cen­tral tenet of Trump­ism. I thought Trump would have to stick with this para­noid re­venge fan­tasy through­out the cam­paign — un­til Con­way said Sun­day that the fi­nal pol­icy on forced deportation is “to be de­ter­mined.”

The pre­vi­ous day, in a meet­ing with a group of His­panic ad­vis­ers, Trump re­port­edly said he could con­sider a pro­ce­dure in which at least some un­doc­u­mented men and women could ob­tain le­gal sta­tus with­out first go­ing back to their home coun­tries. But Mon­day, Trump said that “I’m not flip-flop­ping” on im­mi­gra­tion — yet de­clined to give any specifics on what his po­si­tion now is.

Poor Con­way had bet­ter get used to ex­plain­ing what her can­di­date must have meant as op­posed to what he ac­tu­ally said. She also should get ac­cus­tomed to the fact that Trump will fre­quently make her into a liar. “He doesn’t hurl per­sonal in­sults,” she said Sun­day — but then Trump took to Twit­ter. Within hours, he had slung a per­sonal in­sult at a reg­u­lar guest on MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe” (not me). And Mon­day morn­ing, he lobbed even nas­tier per­sonal in­sults at the show’s co-hosts. What­ever, Don­ald.

Trump’s pivot turned out to be a 360-de­gree pirou­ette: Back into the mud, where he feels most at home.

I’ve said it be­fore: Trump is not go­ing to change. No mat­ter how many times he reshuf­fles his cam­paign, he is who he is. It’s delu­sional to pre­tend oth­er­wise.

Eu­gene Robin­son is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at eu­gen­er­obin­son@wash­post.com.

WASH­ING­TON

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