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Donald Trump’s flight from reality

Lee A. Daniels

Among his many sins, Donald Trump long ago turned the Republican Party’s quest to regain the presidency into farce. But for sheer absurdity, nothing has come close to the burlesque he and one of his top aides separately played early last week.

One involved Trump professing his “concern” for African Americans to an apparently all-white crowd at his rally in West Bend, Wisconsin, a 95-percent white suburb of Milwaukee. That came amid days of protests and violence in the city that followed the shooting death of a black male by a black police officer.

The other was a surreal television interview the next day between a longtime Trump aide, Michael Cohen, and a CNN anchor in which Cohen claimed all of the growing number of polls showing Trump’s overall support sharply eroding were wrong.

Both incidents were partly or wholly based on Trump’s virtually non-existent support among black voters — and both underscored the critical role deceit and self-deceit plays in maintaining racist views.

First, Trump’s West Bend speech (the complete text is readily available on the Internet) drew heavily from the “standard text,” if you will, of how-to-feign-concern-for-blacks-while-actually-declaring-support-for-white-rule that’s been used for more than a century by racists in the South and the North.

Of course, it contained the ritual denunciation of the Democratic Party for “pandering” to blacks, and, implicitly, of blacks themselves for continuing to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans. But its key point was promising the restoration of “law and order” — the basic code words reflecting the credo of modern-day anti-black racism that the police are the front-line means of controlling African Americans.

The all-white West Bend crowd lapped it up — ignoring the reality that Trump has yet to campaign in any black community or other community of color, including Milwaukee, whose population is 40 percent black. Last month, for example, he refused invitations from the NAACP to speak to their conventions — actions that perfectly reflect the attitudes of the man who began his campaign for the presidency with a nakedly racist appeal.

In fact, the nation as a whole got a glimpse of the true, unvarnished “concern,” Trump and his mob have for blacks and other Americans of color via the video exposing the racist and sexist language commonplace at Trump rallies the New York Times posted on its website August 3. The vile ferocity on display in it is something even most Trump supporters prefer to pretend doesn’t represent them.

If anything, the next day Trump aide Michael Cohen proved himself even more resistant to acknowledging reality. When CNN anchor Brianna Keilar began asking a question about the campaign by noting that Trump was behind Hillary Clinton in most of the major national election polls, Cohen challenged her. “Says who?” he said.

Keilar, clearly stunned that Cohen was trying to refute a plain fact, replied: “Polls, most of them, all of them.” Cohen again said, “Says who?” They repeated that astonishing exchange once more before Cohen said, “I completely disagree with the polling information” — and asserted the polls have missed Trump’s substantial support among blacks.

“When they say that Donald Trump has a 1 percent favorability amongst the African-American community, I know from my own interactions that that number is absolutely and unequivocally inaccurate. I speak on a weekly basis to more than 100 African-American evangelical preachers who are all committed to ensuring Donald Trump becomes the next president of the United States. … Unanimously, these African-American evangelical preachers all acknowledge that Donald Trump is colorblind when it comes to race and is only interested in ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to thrive and achieve the American dream.”

Cohen’s brazenness, too, is an old lesson-plan from the code book of racism: The few blacks you talk to, who tell you they agree with you, outweigh studies, surveys and polls, demonstrations and all the other voluminous evidence of what the opinion of the mass of black Americans really is. In the decades before Jim Crow fell the Southern segregationists and their Northern fellow travelers played this dirty game all the time.

Of course, Donald Trump’s flight from the reality in this and every other aspect of bizarre campaign has been his standard operating procedure from the get-go. Fortunately, the polls that he and his aides are now so intent on dismissing indicate more and more voters recognize that particular reality, too.

Lee A. Daniels, a longtime journalist, is a keynote speaker and author. He is writing a book on the Obama years and the 2016 election. He can be reached at leedanielsjournalist@gmail.com.