Page: GOP fails minority voters
Donald Trump recently tweeted his gratitude for a huge surge -- Hyooj! Hyooj! -- in his black and Hispanic support that, it turned out, did not quite exist.
“A great honor to receive polling numbers like these,” Trump tweeted on Sept. 8. “Record setting African-American (25 percent) and Hispanic numbers (31 percent).”
Excuse me? Trump is winning almost a third of the Hispanic vote after calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists in his announcement speech? That sounds too strange to be true — and probably isn’t. Trump links to a website called The American Mirror, which essentially pulls the 25 percent figure for black voters from a SurveyUSA poll of voters who were offered a head-to-head choice of Trump versus Hillary Clinton, who received 59 percent. The rest were undecided.
Few people are more disappointed than black Republicans like Robert Woodson, founder of Washington’s Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, which helps neighborhood-based organizations to fight crime, poverty and other dysfunctions.
Woodson, a MacArthur genius grant winner, gained fame for taking Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on a “listening tour” in low-income neighborhoods and helping him craft the antipoverty agenda Ryan released last summer. But Ryan, Romney’s 2012 running mate, decided not to run for president. That’s left Woodson “disappointed that poverty does not seem to be a very important issue among Republicans in the primary,” he told me.
Worse, he’s seen the GOP’s candidates — with the occasional exception of Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina, among others — blow off opportunities to form useful partnerships with poor and minority communities. “I was expecting more,” he said. “I was expecting, at least, for them to understand that’s why they lost it last time.”
Woodson listed at least four areas of concern that GOP candidates have gotten wrong.
■They have talked about the problems of poor and minority communities without spending much, if any, time in those communities, learning the real problems and possible remedies.
■They have “taken the race or ethnicity door,” treating all problems as racial even when they aren’t.
■They have been more eager to preach to local leaders than listen and learn about “neighborhood assets,” as the late Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, for whom Ryan and Woodson worked, called local people who are producing solutions that already are working.
■They expect fast results. It takes time to rebuild a long-decaying relationship. It isn’t too late for Republican presidential hopefuls, Woodson said, if they become serious about it, go to some of the places where Ryan has visited and “encourage their wealthy friends to invest in organizations that are solving problems” but need support to do more.
“If you plant charitably you can harvest politically,” Woodson said, “but you don’t plant and harvest in the same year.”
Right. Be patient. It pays.
Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.