Donald Trump returns to Georgia today, to Macon, where he will likely say something stupid and outrageous about African-Americans. There’s something to be said for picking your audience, after all, and Macon — where slightly less than half of the county is black — is as good a place as any for it.
He’s primed the pump, after all, announcing that he would be meeting with black ministers for an endorsement last week. That meeting appears to have been called off after basically every black activist in America tracked down every single pastor who had been considering it to give them a piece of their mind.
Mary-Pat Hector, a freshman at Spelman — and a major local Black Lives Matter activist — set off alarm bells in the activist community almost immediately. One by one, she and her partners contacted people in the Trump flier, circulated by Mark Burns.
Reaction was swift. Wiley Jackson, a megachurch pastor with churches in southeast Atlanta and Stone Mountain, said “I’ve always encouraged the people who listen to me and believe in me to get involved in the political process,” in a YouTube video responding to criticism. “There should be a coalition of leaders in a position to ask the hard questions … Nowhere on the flier did it say we endorse Mr. Trump, or I personally endorse Mr. Trump. However, we need to ask the hard questions.”
Jackson didn’t say what those questions might be, of course.
You’ll forgive me for being a little skeptical about these pastors’ motivations. A cursory understanding of Trump’s history on race — the rampant discrimination in his real estate practices, taking out full-page ads in the New York papers calling for the death penalty for the “Central Park 5” … who were ultimately exonerated of the charges, the racism his business partners say was common in his business dealings, the Birtherism stupidity, the common slurs cast at the president — makes it safe to say that Trump deserves a bit more than a few hard questions.
But this is the state of political leadership by clergy in the black community.
I note purely as an aside that Jackson came under indictment by a DeKalb County grand jury on securities fraud charges about two years ago for allegedly recruiting church members to buy shares in an unregistered company called Genesis, LLC. The DA, Robert James, said Jackson wasn’t licensed by the state to sell securities. James has since dropped those charges.
The consensus among the Black Lives Matter commentariat has been that these pastors planned to go to Trump with their hands out. Perhaps that’s one reason Killer Mike felt comfortable standing up in front of a Bernie Sanders rally to take whacks at pastors from the stage, even while invoking Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Now I know this is the part where usually it’s a black minister in front of you and usually you get all warm and cozy inside and usually you hear about ‘I have a dream’ and us holding hands and going for ice cream. That’s not why I’m here today,” he said last week at the Fox. “I have said in many a rap, I don’t trust the church or the government, a Democrat, Republican, a pope, a bishop or those other men.”
Trump has been quite open about his willingness to grease palms to move deals. But Trump’s game is a little different these days.
By showing that he can “earn” the endorsement of prominent black clergy — and you may read earn as “buy” — Trump would actually signal to his own supporters that the principles animating black politics can be bought, that all black leaders want when they’re protesting is a bribe from the right (white) person.
The meeting itself may as well have been a fabrication out of whole cloth. It doesn’t matter. He’s already got the headline. The headline is all anyone remembers.
“Black Pastors Expected to Endorse Donald Trump” — New York Times.
Trump is a fascist playing to white racial fears of immigration, foreign competition and the decline of white superiority. This has been evident to me since at least mid-July, although it’s gratifying to see the rest of the media catch up.
A charismatic strong man argues that corporate and political interests should be tied closely together, and that the nation must defend itself from vague external threats while maintaining the sanctity of its national majority culture from harm. His message is wrapped in an aggressive nationalism and a harkening back to better times, with a promise to restore “national greatness.”
Said strong man, a political outsider, vows to be effective regardless of the political hurdles, expressing a willingness to remake or shred the basic laws of the country to see these aims come to fruition, promising a new politics free of corruption in his wake.
This strong man outsider claims superior personal characteristics — intelligence, savoir-faire, and what not — that cannot be duplicated. Power, therefore, must flow from him and him alone, if the goals are to be met.
Critics of this man are denounced in the strongest, crudest possible terms. The media is recruited, masterfully, to press the agenda and to burnish the credentials of this man as an outsider and the leader of a popular rebellion. He encourages intimidation of the media and of political opponents, up to and including acts of violence.
The dude even has his own clothing line for uniforms.
Tell me, am I describing Donald Trump or Benito Mussolini?
I honestly don’t think he can win, short of faking an assassination attempt on his own life to create sympathy. And I honestly don’t think he thinks he can win, either. I think this is the art of the deal.
He’s moving the parameters for negotiations in a brokered convention so that the result he wants looks like a compromise. The crazier he looks, the more credibility he possesses in that smoke-filled room when he threatens to run a third-party campaign.
Politics is a game that requires cooperation. In game theory, there has to be punishment for defectors in order to maintain a stable exchange. Trump’s genius here is that he’s realized there’s no meaningful penalty he’ll need to pay if this all goes pear-shaped on him. What’s the worst that happens if he loses? His brand value is somewhat diminished but he’s not spending any real money.
No one is talking about how to take it out of Trump’s ass after this is all over — financially attacking his revenue streams, his assets, his business partners, his friends — damaging him enough so this can’t happen again, as a message to the next billionaire with fascist aspirations. I want to hear that conversation.