On Tuesday night, Donald Trump delivered a major speech focusing on racial inequalities and urban crime in suburban West Bend, Wisconsin. Part of his message was addressed directly to black voters 40 miles away in Milwaukee, where protests erupted over the weekend following the fatal police shooting of Sylville Smith.
“I’m asking for the vote of every African American citizen struggling in our country today who wants a different and much better future,” the Republican presidential nominee said. “To every voter in Milwaukee, to every voter living in the inner city or every forgotten stretch of our society, I’m running to offer you a much better future, a much better job.”
Trump blamed problems in impoverished black communities on Democratic politicians.
“The Democratic Party has failed and betrayed the African American community,” he said. “Democratic crime policies, education policies and economic policies have produced only more crime, more broken homes and more poverty.”
He also blamed groups like Black Lives Matter, who are “peddling the narrative of cops as a racist force in our society” and “share directly in the responsibility for the unrest in Milwaukee and many other places within our country.”
Trump’s audience, however, was largely white, as these photos indicate:
— Anthony Peltier (@_anthonypeltier) August 16, 2016
Supporters are filling floor and stands before Donald Trump speaks in West Bend, Wisconsin. Tuesday pic.twitter.com/dags0gAl47
— Rick Wood (@RickWoodMJS) August 16, 2016
Arena filling up for TRUMP RALLY in West Bend, WI. starts at 7:30pm Central Time. pic.twitter.com/6M4SocDYUh
— TRUMP 24/7 (@MichaelDelauzon) August 16, 2016
While people filed in to the Ziegler Building on the Washington County Fairground to hear Trump speak, they were even able to purchase Confederate flags:
WEST BEND, WI- Outside Trump rally in my ongoing series "Confederate Flags Around America." Vendor says he's sold 5 pic.twitter.com/suqlwp7hwv
— Candace Smith (@CandaceSmith_) August 16, 2016
According to the latest Census data, West Bend is 92 percent white. Just one percent of the suburb’s population is African American. On the whole, Washington County is 94 percent white and one percent black.
Milwaukee, by contrast, is 39 percent black and 37 percent white. Twenty-nine percent of people in the city live in poverty, compared to just eight percent in West Bend.
West Bend is also a healthy drive from Milwaukee:
That fact wasn’t lost on some of last night’s attendees. One of them, Jared Gagnon-Palick of West Bend, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “people up here don’t really care about what’s going on in Milwaukee.”
“I grew up in Milwaukee, and I moved here to get away from all the crime with three little kids,” he added.
It also wasn’t lost on Black Lives Matter activist Deray Mckesson, who tweeted that Trump’s “’African-American’ outreach speech was meant to polarize.”
Trump's speech wasn't to recruit black voters, it was meant to give him (more) public cover to say that black people are stupid.
— deray mckesson (@deray) August 17, 2016
Trump has a lot of work to do to gain traction with black voters. A recent Fox News poll found him 84 points behind Hillary Clinton among that demographic, and also way behind Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson:
That’s even worse than Mitt Romney did among African American voters against Obama in 2012, when he lost that demographic by an 87 point margin (93 percent to six percent). Nonetheless, Trump surrogates are optimistic Trump’s message last night resonated:
Trump speech was the clearest appeal to the African American community of any Republican nominee.if he builds on this it could be big.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) August 17, 2016
During the Republican primary race last September, Trump also gave a speech where he made a play for black voters in front of a largely white crowd in South Carolina. He told his audience he would win at least 25 percent of the black vote during a general election contest against Clinton — “And I think it’s going to be higher than that.”