Some Republican­s worry Trump will split party’s vote

Rivals say a win by him is a loss for GOP in the general election against the Democrats.

- David Person David Person reports for Message Magazine, blogs for the Ministry Matters website and is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributo­rs.

HUNTSVILLE, ALA. The candidate who wants to “make America great again” says blacks love him. He says that one day, we’ll love him more than we love President Obama. He says he will do “great with the African Americans.” Or “phenomenal­ly,” as he put it Monday at a rally in Radford, Va.

Donald Trump is more full of hype than Flavor Flav, the front man for the seminal rap group Public Enemy. So most people will probably take such claims with a shaker of salt.

But one thing is clear: If the Republican front-runner continues to waffle on David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy, he can be sure that whatever love some African Americans might have for him will quickly dissipate — along with most of their votes.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Trump blew it when Jake Tapper of CNN tossed him the biggest, fattest of all softball questions on Sunday’s State of the Union broadcast: “Will you unequivoca­lly condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacis­ts in this election?”

“I have to look at the group,” Trump replied. “I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about.”

Repeating Duke’s name back to Tapper, he went on to claim he knew nothing about the former KKK leader or white supremacis­ts, a strange stance since he had curtly disavowed Duke after the Thursday night GOP debate and again Friday at a news conference with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Later on Sunday, apparently attempting damage-control, Trump took to Twitter to echo his earlier disavowals of Duke. By Monday, he was playing the technology card, blaming his strikeout on a bad earpiece. Whatever. Trump at one time was very clear about who Duke was and what Duke believed. “This is not company I wish to keep,” he said of Duke in 2000. The whole sequence stretches credulity.

One problem is that Trump seems to believe that celebrity and ratings will equate to votes. And that could be the case with that white, right-wing voting bloc looking for alternativ­es to the Republican status quo.

But surely he knows he lost Democrats long ago, thanks to his birther antics during the last campaign cycle. And African Americans make up a significan­t percentage of the Democratic vote — 23% in 2014, according to House exit polls. The best current estimates are that black support for Trump is as low as 4% and no higher than 12%.

Many African Americans apparently enjoyed Trump, the brash, tough TV boss on The Apprentice. But we black folks know the difference between a reality show and a presidenti­al campaign.

‘MORAL TRUTH’ We know what we are seeing when the racial compositio­n of Trump’s campaign rallies looks like GOP convention­s — the one held here on Sunday was no different — and peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters are treated with hostility.

And we know what we are seeing when Trump gets the endorsemen­t of Alabama’s U.S. senator, Jeff Sessions, who has suggested that the removal of Confederat­e flags is an attempt to diminish America’s “fabulous accomplish­ments.”

The Confederac­y was the first government in the history of the world that was, in the words of Alexander Stephens, its vice president, based on the “great physical, philosophi­cal and moral truth” of slavery and white supremacy.

That was a fabulous accomplish­ment? Only in a universe where blacks are picking cotton, denied all citizen rights and legally treated no better than cattle.

Yes, African Americans know what we are seeing in the Trump presidenti­al campaign. And for most of us, it doesn’t add up to a love affair, no matter what the candidate may think.

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 ?? STEVE HELBER, AP ?? Campaignin­g Monday in Radford, Va., Donald Trump says he’ll do “phenomenal­ly with the African Americans.”
STEVE HELBER, AP Campaignin­g Monday in Radford, Va., Donald Trump says he’ll do “phenomenal­ly with the African Americans.”

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