One of the most onerous yet least talk about by-products of the reality-TV style election antics we find ourselves being subjected to on a daily basis at the hands of Donald Trump, is the sudden public spectacle of Black Conservatives fanning out across network television to declare their allegiance to the racist, bombastic, misogynist real estate developer.
This special group of Black Trump supporters, themselves bombastic and used to being relegated to the shadows because of their contrary political opinions, are now barnstorming the airways eager to get their time in the spotlight by using the nation’s collective viewing addiction to all-things Trump as some form of misguided “come-up”.
It would be laughable if it weren’t also a symptom of a much larger set of problems being brought on by Trump’s almost gangster takeover of the media.
As a nation, as a viewing public, we’re being held hostage by it. Donald Trump has gotten a vice-like grip on the media, and they’re wriggling in his grasp like so many slimy catfish, struggling in vain for their freedom after being caught in a fisherman’s net. They’ve become addicted to the ratings juggernaut he’s become, even as they have taken to wringing their hands over losing their ability to dictate political discourse as a consequence of his dominance. You need only tune into MSNBC and CNN to hear them complain on a daily basis about the lack of control they have over the Frankenstein monster they themselves created. And now, we have this strange new breed of Black Conservative zombie popping up everywhere and making the whole thing all the more - surreal.
The campaigns call them “surrogates” – people who show up on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and the like to argue tangentially for the position of their candidate over the current debate of the day, carefully avoiding facts to bolster their positions. The African American Trump surrogates are no different; but - eager for their fifteen minutes of fame, they often forget that they, oh, are uneducated to political history and important facts, have skeletons in their closets they forgot to hide, and have political opinions that are anathema to the majority of African Americans in the country. Cloaked in their rebellion of all things liberal and Democratic, they limp from network to network like diseased unicorns, desperate to be seen and heard, no matter what the consequence, to the nation, the political process, or even to themselves.
Take Mark Burns, the South Carolina pastor who mostly yelled his recent speech at the delegates and television viewing audience during the Republican National Convention. His appearance and subsequent heated confrontations with a number of network interviewers helped him grab the nation’s attention long enough for him to be unmasked as a con-artist and a liar, after a CNN reporter outed him over lies and exaggerations published on his personal website. Or Katrina Pierson, perhaps Trump’s most famous surrogate, who has literally achieved notoriety by being willing to show up at any time to put her shocking ignorance of history and issues on display (like when she recently insisted that President Obama was responsible for getting the nation into the war in Afghanistan).
And then there’s the latest addition to this irritating bunch – Bruce Levell. Levell is the former chairman of the Gwinnett County GOP (my county of residence) the owner of a jewelry store in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody, and the Executive Director of the National Diversity Coalition for the Trump campaign, an exercise in political futility if I’ve ever heard of one. Levell could be found this afternoon on MSNBC during an interview with the network’s Hallie Jackson vehemently arguing that Donald Trump’s multi-year campaign to de-legitimize the candidacy, presidency, and American citizenship of President Obama was not a ‘black thing’. I’ll just let that one sit there for a moment.
It’s hard to imagine that it could be anything else. Except for a brief flirtation with whether or not Ted Cruz was eligible to be president based on his Canadian birth (to a mother who was a U.S. citizen), none of the other 17 Republican candidates Trump trounced to win the nomination received the kind of baseless scrutiny of their birth status, educational background, and legitimacy as Barack Obama has over the last 5 years. The fact that Trump literally used the nonsensical birther issue to force the nation’s first African American president to “show his papers” alone should be reason enough to resent the clearly racially charged nature of his rhetoric if you’re an African American. But the fact is, Trump has given us many, many more reasons to reject him.
Tweet’s of inaccurate and racially biased statistics about black men and crime. His consistent drubbing of the Black Lives Matter movement. His refusal to tamp down the rabid dog-like behavior of the supporters who regularly and brazenly punch and verbally abuse black protestors who brave his events. His refusal still to definitively separate himself from the support coming from the likes of David Duke and racist extremist groups who are rejoicing at his candidacy as if it’s some sort of second coming of Hitler. We are seeing a level of racial vitriol unlike any that’s been on public display at the highest levels of politics in this country in decades. So why the loyal, almost robotic support from these African American surrogates?
It goes far beyond mere social assimilation in my opinion. When directly confronted with the facts of Trump’s years-long distortion of the facts of President Obama’s birth, people like Levell and his other black surrogates immediately lunge for an opportunity to remind us that Hillary Clinton once called young black men ‘super-predators’, as if pointing out such a thing absolves Trump of his responsibility to be truthful. They ignore the documented facts of the racial discrimination Trump and his father were once accused of and fined for in their business practices; they turn a blind eye to his easy willingness to attack a Muslim Gold Star Family, or a timid black female pastor who stands up to him to insist that he stick to an agreed upon subject during a visit to her church. They hear these things, they surely must see these things, and yet they continue to pledge their allegiance to him nonetheless.
Those of us African Americans who have managed to maintain a realistic perspective on this country, its politics and its racial issues, are traumatized by the sheer ignorance and pathetic nature of the lunatic ramblings of the likes of Pastor Mark Burns, Katrina Pierson and Bruce Levell. They’ve put themselves on public display to willingly offer praise and support for a man who once tweeted “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore”, and who yes, has spent the last half-a-dozen years doing his level best to rob us of the greatest source of pride we’ve been handed as a race in the history of this nation – the election of not just the first African American President, but of a man whose time in office has been as scandal-free and productive as any president in modern history. All of Trump’s other racial bullshit aside – this one affront to who we are should be enough to dump Trump. It will take an army of psychologists and people a lot smarter than me to figure out why it’s not enough for people like Mark Burns, Katrina Pierson and Bruce Levell to do so.
Donald Trump is an aged, ignorant, blow-hard billionaire who has so little empathy for the plight of Black Americans or understanding of world politics that electing him to office could not only possibly destroy any chance African Americans have of undoing so much of the generational damage done by slavery, Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex and unfair criminal enforcement practices – it would set the entire country on a path to a Brexit-like unrest, rife with political and financial instability that could permanently change the course of this nation’s history.
There are no easy answers to any of what’s happening in this country right now, but what is obvious to me is that these people, these Black Trump surrogates are victims of their need to belong, to want to seem reasonable, and not bound in some way to their legacy of slavery and racial injustice. That’s fine ― but because they continue to ignore his disrespect of the President, and support and cheer on his obvious manipulation of the media to offer half-hearted appeals to the Black community, it’s even more important than ever that African Americans not stay home from the polls on election day. We must work like we’ve never worked before to prevent Trump from being elected President. Not just to preserve the work and legacy of Barack Obama, either. A Trump presidency threatens our possible future freedoms and rights as U.S. citizens, and the very standing of the country geo-politically, including our ability to continue to command the respect of world leaders and allied nations, and to position ourselves for the challenges of unavoidable global economic realities. Donald Trump and his half-baked, non-policies -steeped in old Reagan wanna-be trickle down economic theory is the absolute last thing Americans need, whether we are of African descent or not. The good news is that no matter what you see in the polls, or hear out of the mouths of the misguided trio of Trump surrogate sell-outs, the power to elect Hillary Clinton as our next President really is still in our African American hands. All we have to do is use it.