In what would be a sea change in American politics, if it proves to be what it is portrayed to be, Donald Trump is set to announce his endorsement by a consortium of 100 black pastor and religious leaders at Trump’s Manhattan headquarters on Monday:
The Republican presidential candidate has a private meeting with the group scheduled on Monday before they make their offer of support official, according to his campaign. The endorsement comes as Mr. Trump has faced criticism for stoking racial tension and has seen his support among evangelical Christians start to waver in polls as voters consider Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) of Texas and Ben Carson.
That tension was evident this week after an activist for the group Black Lives Matter was beaten at a Trump campaign rally, and the billionaire developer said that perhaps the activist deserved to be roughed up. Mr. Trump also angered some when he sent a Twitter message that appeared to play down the recent spate of incidents of police brutality against African-Americans.
However, Mr. Trump has held several meetings with black religious leaders this year as he looks to broaden his appeal, and it appears that he has closed the deal with some of them.
I don’t pretend to be an authority on the relative weight of religious leaders and pastors. Every time I see a “Catholic leaders say…” headline I cringe because I know the people who will be quoted are inevitably the skeeviest, pseudo-Catholic quislings you can find. My Evangelical friends have a similar spasm of revulsion when they are told their leaders are all in favor of #LoveWins and abortion. So these pastors may or may not represent a mainstream part of black American religious life. Similarly, I don’t believe blacks move in lockstep due to the influence of religious leaders any more than I think any other group does. At one time, when the pastor or priest might be the only person in a rural black or inner city immigrant community who had the time and ability to follow politics, this might have been true.
Having said that, what the endorsement of Trump by this group of black ministers means is that it is politically and socially acceptable for a large number of black ministers to publicly appear with Trump and to endorse his presidential bid making it a coup that neither Romney nor McCain was able to pull off. This flies in the face of the line pushed by some Trump critics who have tried to paint Trump and his supporters as latter-day Klansmen.
This has to be causing concern within the DNC where they are betting their future on locking in RAE voters, voters from what they call the Rising American Electorate (minorities, young people, and unmarried women), so elections can be won based on demographics rather than issues and sane candidates. [/snark]
The endorsement shows that this election cycle that the Democrats are going to have to fight for black votes, a first in the modern history of the Democrat party. And if Trump falters, the mere fact that a large-ish group of prominent black pastors endorsed a Republican will make Hillary Clinton’s job much harder.