In Detroit church visit, Trump aims to sway African-American voters

Monday, September 5, 2016 - 6:40pm

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump visited a Black church Saturday in Detroit in an outreach attempt to the African-American community. Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, the Great Faith Ministries International congregation leader, hosted Trump and sat down with the candidate for a one-on-one interview with him.

The New York Times reoported this visit as Trump’s first as a presidential candidate to an African-American church. He visited with church members and did an interview with Jackson, which was not open to press. Trump called it an “amazing interview” on Twitter Saturday and complimented Jackson on his interviewing skills, going so far as to say they were “better than the people who are doing that professionally, I can tell you.”

Trump hosted a reserved event, travelling with just a few of his Black supporters — including former Republican contender Dr. Ben Carson.

The GOP candidate also decided to give a short speech to the congregation, after turning down the offer previously. The speech lasted 10 minutes — an uncharacteristically short speech for the candidate.

Trump chose not to speak about the situation of African Americans or to ask them to take a chance on him, as he did when visiting Akron, Ohio, in August. Instead, he praised the work of Black Christians and spoke of the hope that America can “turn again to our Christian heritage to lift up the soul of our nation.”

Trump also called for more conversation among different communities in the United States.

“We talk past each other and not to each other,” Trump said. “And those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what's going on. I'm here today to learn, so that we can together remedy injustice in any form, and so that we can also remedy economics so that the African-American community can benefit economically through jobs and income and so many other different ways."

Both religious and Black voters will be important to Trump in building a winning electoral map. Trump currently has close to four-fifths of white, evangelical voters, but isn’t polling nearly as well among the African-American community, and a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC/Marist poll found Trump has zero percent of the Black vote in two key swing states: Ohio and Pennsylvania. Another WSJ/NBC poll found Trump polling at 1 percent of the Black vote nationwide compared to Hillary Clinton’s 91 percent.

Saturday's stop was Trump's second attempt at appealing to the African-American community in Michigan, albeit in noticeably different fashions. When Trump made a campaign stop in Dimondale, Mich. last month, he spoke of issues he hoped to improve within the African-American community, particularly in cities like Detroit.

While speaking to a predominantly white crowd in Akron, Ohio, last month, Trump said, “Our government has totally failed our African-American friends, our Hispanic friends and the people of our country. ... What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I’ll straighten it out.”

Trump's changing message to African-Americans has drawn a range of reactions in past months including significant backlash after his Dimondale and Akron comments. His Detroit speech was more well received by the public.