clock menu more-arrow no yes

I asked black delegates at the RNC about Trump and race. Here’s what they said.

Donald Trump. John Moore/Getty Images

CLEVELAND — The themes of the 2016 Republican National Convention have been "Make America Safe Again," "Make America Work Again," "Make America First Again," and "Make America One Again." But there’s another theme: the near-total whiteness of the convention. According to a Washington Post analysis, this convention likely has the fewest percent of black delegates attending than any other Republican convention in the past century.

One way to interpret this statistic is that Republicans failed to achieve one of their big goals after their 2012 loss: reaching out to minority voters. And Donald Trump, with his blatantly racist rhetoric, seems like an obvious explanation for why.

But speaking to black delegates on the convention floor Wednesday night, there didn’t seem to be too much worry about any of these issues.

Some delegates brushed off questions about Trump and race entirely, arguing these issues were distractions trying to force Trump to be "politically correct."

"I don’t think this election is going to turn on some politically incorrect phrases," James Evans, a state delegate from Utah and the state’s party chair, told me. "I think what we’re going to discuss in this election is the policies of the political left, and how they have decimated minority communities, not rhetoric."

He added, "If you ask me as a minority, I will take someone who is perhaps politically incorrect — even racially insensitive — but who’s going to fight for a better America for all of us over those who are politically correct but are disastrous to my community."

Reginald Grant, from Huffman, Texas, made a similar argument. "It’s just the same old Democratic talking points," he said. "The Democrats, they can’t challenge you on the issues. So they resort to name-calling."

Tony Roberts, a delegate from Nashville, Tennessee, said that, in his experience, Trump was a racial uniter. He said that he and a family member reunited thanks to their support for Trump after years of feuding. "I’ve never seen so many minorities in this party," he said.

Tyrell Bundy, a delegate from Detroit, Michigan, who previously supported Sen. Rand Paul, seemed the most cautious of the delegates I spoke to. But he still stood up for Trump.

"We need a president who’s going to focus on a multitude of issues," Bundy said. "At the end of the day, if you focus on one demographic, there’s always someone you’re leaving out. If you focus on just one issue, there’s another issue you’re not giving attention to. So we need someone who really has the ingenuity to get things done."

But while the delegates on the floor may not care about Trump’s racist comments, it seems the American people do.

Donald Trump has benefited from racial resentment

One thing is clear: Trump has made some racist comments throughout his campaign, and it has led racially resentful voters to support him. And it appears to have pushed away minority voters.

Trump has, for example, dubbed himself as the "law and order" candidate — a clear dog whistle playing to white fears of black crime. He also called for a ban on Muslims coming to the US, suggested Mexican immigrants are rapists and murderers, and argued a federal judge should recuse himself from a case involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage.

Trump has defended his offensive remarks much like the delegates did for him at the Republican convention — by arguing that he’s not afraid to be politically incorrect and "tell it like it is." Apparently, telling it like it is can involve blatant racism. (Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican who endorsed Trump, said Trump’s comments that a federal judge should recuse himself because of his ethnicity were "textbook" racism.)

This played to Trump’s favor in the Republican primary, with voters reporting high levels of racial resentment rushing to him. One analysis from Daniel Byrd and Loren Collingwood, for instance, found white Trump supporters are much more likely to show high levels of racial resentment than white Americans overall.

Daniel Byrd and Loren Collingwood/TeleSUR

But it’s also likely having an impact on his minority support. Polls have found that support for Trump among black voters, for example, is as low as 0 percent in some swing states and 1 percent nationally. In comparison, Mitt Romney got 6 percent of the black vote in 2012 running against the nation’s first black president.

This goes against the big goal of the Republicans’ 2013 "autopsy" report, which was supposed to offer a guide after the party’s big loss in 2012. It suggested some of the ways the party could increase support among minority voters — including improved lines of communication with black Americans.

Instead, they got Donald Trump — and a record-low number of black delegates at the convention.

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.