In the midst of stifling heat and perpetual foot traffic, hundreds of enraged protesters swarmed Hollywood Boulevard. Each participant had a message for our nation’s outspoken president.
“Fk Donald Trump!” one of them yelled. “Trump’s a fascist pig!” shouted another. “Assassinate the president!” screamed one more.
To describe the environment as bedlam would be a colossal understatement. It was a steamy, sticky Saturday afternoon, and emotions ran even hotter.
The howling continued: “Deport Melania Trump!” “Trump’s a Russian spy!” “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!”
Picket signs hovered in the air like paper spaceships invading the town. A pair of demonstrators howled expletives aimed at Trump from an elevated platform on wheels. A supersized amplifier and Yamaha speakers worked in tandem to blast rock music in every direction. The sound rattled windows featuring the latest fashions of nearby clothing boutiques. Tourists snapped photos and called home to share what they’d seen. An army of police waited patiently for a disturbance—and there were plenty.
It was the type of pandemonium that ensues during most anti-Trump events, especially when outliers decide to crash the party. Anything can happen when these forces collide.
In tight formation, Bobby “R.C.” Maxwell and a posse of Trump supporters arrived fashionably late to the rally. His appearance elicited curious stares and expressions of bewilderment from onlookers. Sporting a red baseball cap emblazoned with Trump’s now-infamous slogan “Make America Great Again,” Maxwell waded through dozens of bodies until he was finally confronted by a shirtless, tattoo-flashing meathead.
“Are you serious, bro?” he asked coldly with judgment boiling in his eyes. “You talking to me?” Maxwell asked. “Yeah, I’m talking to you. You’re Black. Do you have any idea how you look supporting that prick (Trump)?” “No, asshole. Tell me.” “You look like an fking Uncle Tom. Why do you support a man who don’t give a shit about you or anyone here?”
The moment escalated quickly. Spectators watched eagerly as Maxwell and his new adversary jammed their foreheads together like two rams squaring off for battle.
“I fking dare you to swing,” the antagonist urged, fuming. “If I do, you ain’t waking up ‘till this rally is over,” Maxwell fired back.
Smart phones and other recording devices formed a jagged Halo around both combatants. If blows were thrown, the scuffle would’ve been streamed live on Facebook and seen by millions of viewers worldwide. But it didn’t happen. Cooler heads prevailed, and the police weren’t far away. For the umpteenth time, it would seem, Maxwell evaded a brawl.
“This happens all the time,” he admitted during an interview. “I crashed a rally Downtown (Los Angeles), and some asshole called me a coon. We almost mixed it up, but the cops intervened. I’m not a fighter, but considering my political affiliations, many people view me as a target, especially Black people.”
He continued, “I find it pretty shameful that a Black man in America can’t wear anything overtly pro-American without fear of contempt. This contempt most commonly comes from White liberals and people who look like me.”
It’s an uncontested truth that Trump remains historically unpopular among Black voters. And there are no signs of this changing, even with Trump’s recent attempts at African American outreach. In one poll last summer, he achieved the remarkable feat of earning zero percent of the Black vote in two key swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Though there have been outliers, his unfavorable rating among Blacks remains bleak—close to 90 percent of Black respondents in one recent survey had “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable feelings toward him—and Trump is currently polling between two and six percent with Black voters nationally. One does occasionally encounter a few Black people who support the man. The question that follows, however, is just who exactly are these Black Trump supporters?
The Black Trump supporter is likely to be a working-class or lower-middle-class Black man, over the age of 35, and interested in alternative approaches to addressing what ails Black America. While Trump is only winning over a very small number of such men, there is a reason that the majority of his Black support comes from this segment of the electorate. These voters tend to be more receptive to core messages of self-determination, financial success as a function of hard work, and personal responsibility, especially when conveyed in a plainspoken, hypermasculine manner.
“I voted for Trump because I thought he was exactly what Washington needed,” explains Maxwell, who serves as the national coordinator for American Voice, a nonprofit, nonpartisan political advocacy organization. “I’ve been disappointed with the Republican establishment for quite sometime. When all hats were thrown into the ring, Marco Rubio was my top choice, mostly because I thought he had the most electability. But Trump absolutely embarrassed him and 15 other well established and connected candidates. When I started to receive emails asking me to join in the national party effort to sabotage Trump’s White House bid, I knew that he was the candidate for me because he was something the Republican Party establishment feared.”
It’s not unusual for Black Democrat and Independent voters to look at their Republican counterparts with skepticism and dismissal, writing them off as sell-outs or an Uncle Tom.
While Black Republicans seem few in number by today’s standards, before the 1960s, Blacks were drawn to the “Party of Lincoln,” after they were given the right to vote. Not only did they vote solidly Republican, but they ran for office and won seats during Reconstruction. Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Sojourner Truth, and Mary McLeod Bethune—even Ray Charles—saw the GOP as a place to be heard and supported at some time. It was long speculated that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican before the 1960s, yet King scholars say that he had no party affiliation.
In 2016, Essence released a list of 15 Black celebrities who support Donald Trump. The names include Stacy Dash, ex-NFL pro-bowler Terell Owens, Mike Tyson, Jim Brown, Kanye West, Azaelia Banks, and others.
It is the fiscal and social conservative platform that keeps these voters and others close to the Republican Party?
“I support Trump because he stands for a number of things I stand for,” said Jourdin Davis, 29, who uses his spare time to engage Trump critics and protesters. “I am against open-border policies, illegal immigration, and PC [politically correct] culture. Plus, I like how he went right into office with a pro-America attitude. I think the country needs more of that since we have those on the radical regressive left fighting against it.”
He added, “As far as hitching my wagon to Trump’s presidency, I really did not think in terms of race/ethnicity when doing so. He is what you would consider a ‘civic nationalist,’ where one stands up for his people across all racial/ethnic/gender lines in his birth country. I admire that.”
Davis believes that the best way of achieving the American dream is through conservative Republican principles. He thinks the Democratic Party has taken Black votes for granted and is animated by the belief that partisan loyalty has not helped Black people.
“Much of the African American community thinks that I sold them out big time for being openly pro Trump, pro America, and even pro cop,” he groaned. “I’m falsely accused of working with White supremacists and working to uphold their alleged system of oppression against people of color. I give warnings to those who try to get physical with me—you will be pepper sprayed!”
“The Democratic Party and race hustlers like Al Sharpton embrace victimhood and they impose this way of thinking on the Black community,” Davis continued. “I prefer the dignity of owning a business or having a job than being on welfare or being unemployed. I think Black Americans vote overwhelmingly Democrat because there is a lack of diversity of thought in the community when it comes to politics and voting. It’s easy to follow the crowd and requires less accountability.”
Black Trump supporters—especially male—are more likely to vote for candidates who extol hard work over federal programs and who offer economic opportunity as a way to address racial inequality rather than new civil-rights legislation, explains The Atlantic. They are less likely to think social action and constant protest are effective ways of overcoming racial discrimination. They don’t believe anyone in government has the best interest of Black America at heart, so they aren’t deterred by Trump’s racially intolerant remarks. They prefer his crude, straightforward manner to politicians’ disingenuous placations.
“There are several reactions I get from wearing a Trump hat,” says Farai Kofi Marimbe, 29. “It’s normally complete shock and confusion. ‘You’re Black and voted for Trump..what’s going on here!?’ That’s usually my favorite. I’ve also witnessed “suppressed anger” to the point you can immediately feel the energy shift the moment you enter a room with that hat on. Everyone just stares, but can never seem to look you directly in the eye. Even when you greet someone warmly, the response is super subtle and most of the time not genuine.”
He continued, “Black people should be thrilled that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created and plenty more will come. Trump empowers people to work, learn new skills, and grow outstanding communities. This will decrease crime and unemployment that continues to run rampant in democratically elected states and counties. The actions Trump has taken so far are not only helping Black people but all Americans in general. The stock market is thriving, factories are returning to the US—it’s becoming the America it once was.”
While a surprising number of Black voters have emerged in favor of Trump, the typical supporter is a White, non-college-educated male who feels voiceless in a nation with changing racial demographics.
In 2015, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suggested that racial concerns could be fueling Trump’s popularity among conservative voters during a “Face the Nation” interview.
Last year, two studies revealed that racial anxiety was the driving factor of support for the lone GOP presidential candidate. The report also confirmed that economic concerns didn’t have as much influence as previously thought.
The first study, conducted by political scientist Philip Klinker, examined data from the 2016 American National Election Study and compared voter feelings/attitudes toward Trump and Democrat contender Hillary Clinton. During his research, Klinker also analyzed how economic opinions, racial attitudes and demographic variables could influence an individual’s feelings toward each candidate.
“My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes do little to explain support for Donald Trump,” Klinker wrote in a Vox article published in 2016. His study found that “those who express more resentment toward African Americans, those who think the word ‘violent’ describes Muslims well, and those who believe President Obama is a Muslim have much more positive views of Trump compared with Clinton.”
A similar study conducted by the Washington Post also investigated whether “shared concern about White status” or economic anxiety fueled overwhelming support for Trump. In conjunction with ABC News, the publication ran a national poll inquiring into voter economic status and racial attitudes. The results of their study differed only slightly from Klinker’s.
“…Both economic troubles and feelings that Whites are losing out have a strong—and independent—impact on Trump’s supporters,” the Washington Post states. “Republicans who are worried about maintaining their economic situation are more likely to support Trump, regardless of whether they think that Whites losing out to other groups is a big problem. Those who voiced concerns about White status appeared to be even more likely to support Trump than those who said they were struggling economically, but the results did not clearly show which concern was more important among Trump’s coalition.”
Regardless of these findings, Maxwell says his support of Trump won’t be swayed.
“Trump has done the best he can given all-out efforts from the opposition party and CNN/MSNBC to sabotage his presidency and thus the country,” he contends. “His [Neil] Gorsuch appointment was significant and will be for years. His moves in Syria have done wonders for troop morale and American primacy abroad. He’s done well with world leaders, and he’s made some smart moves that aren’t newsworthy such as his liquefied natural gas export initiative. I just hope that Trump and those close to him don’t allow distractions like the Russia investigation to deter the agenda. And yes, I’ll be voting for him in 2020.”