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Why Is the Media Treating Trump’s Racist Speech Like It Was Actual Outreach to Black Voters?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said two very important things in his so-called “law and order” speech Tuesday, only one of which is getting any play from the mainstream news media. The first was a complete erasure of the empirically provable racism that exists in policing in America today, as demonstrated just last week with the release of a Justice Department report on the Baltimore City Police Department, and the second was Trump’s declaration that he is “asking for” black votes:

Just like Hillary Clinton is against the miners, she is against the police. Believe me. You know it, and I know it, and guess what, she knows it. Those peddling the narrative of cops as a racist force in our society – a narrative supported with a nod by my opponent – share directly in the responsibility for the unrest in Milwaukee, and many other places within our country.

…I am asking for the vote of every African-American citizen struggling in our country today who wants a different and much better future.

Before you even listen for any subtext in Trump’s speech, it’s important to recognize that it is explicitly racist to deny the effects of systemic racism in our policing. Everything after that was gravy.

There was gravy aplenty, though, as Trump went on to pull out every other trick in the Republican “black outreach” playbook, like calling Hillary Clinton the REAL bigot, and blaming Democratic policies for the problems they’re attempting to address. We keep spraying water on fires, and fires just keep on happening, what the hell, people? But even in “asking for” black votes, Trump embeds the “exceptional negro” disclaimer that lets white voters know he’s only talking to the good ones who “want a different and much better future,” as opposed to those other blacks who are happy on the “Democrat plantation.”

It’s a terrible, poorly-masked trick that has, nevertheless, worked a charm on even the smartest people in the mainstream media, who have dutifully reported that Trump is “reaching out” to black voters. Not to pick on Van Jones, because literally everyone has been reporting it this way, but on Wednesday’s The Lead, he personified this blindness by simultaneously accepting the premise that Trump is reaching out to black voters, and making note of the punchline to Trump’s trick. He wonders why Trump would hire Stephen Bannon (whom former Congressman Jack Kingston amusingly calls “Dannon” several times) if he’s trying to reach out to black voters:

I think it is a missed opportunity. I don’t understand what Trump is doing. Last night he is out there saying he wants to have the African-American vote. The way he said it, I think, fell pretty flat. Then you get someone the least likely — the problem with the whole Breitbart crew is they have been so tough on Barack Obama that he will go from 1% of the black vote to 0% of the black vote.

What Jones and the rest of the media are failing to realize is that the point of Republican “black voter outreach” has never been to actually reach out to black voters, it has always been to comfort white voters by telling them that 94% of black voters are just too lazy, brainwashed, historically ignorant, or otherwise “plantation”-bound to realize how awesome Republican policies already are. Trump’s speech wasn’t about asking for black votes, it was about making a show of asking for black votes, right after telling black voters that systemic racism in policing is all in their heads. The point is to be able to say you reached out to black voters, while reinforcing a narrative for why they continue to not support you.

Jones and the mainstream media, consequently, are missing the fact that the hiring of Breitbart.com chief Stephen Bannon isn’t a missed opportunity for black outreach, it is the entire point. Along with The Daily Caller, Bannon’s site has been the leading internet hub for resentful white people who wish more of the good blacks would get off the Democrat plantation. It would not surprise me one bit to learn that Bannon wrote that speech, then had Kellyanne Conway go through it to change “Democrat” to “Democratic,” and take out other alt-right wingnut tells.

Lest you think that Bannon and his hive are somehow deviant in the world of Republican politics, as the GOP establishment would have you believe, please remember that when the party commissioned its 2012 “autopsy report,” they suggested policy approaches to every minority group named in the report except black voters, whom they determined just needed to be “educat(ed) on Republican ideals and the Party’s history.”

Trump is doubling down on what has worked for him so far, and the media needs to recognize that it’s the same thing that’s worked for Republicans for a very long time.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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