Does Birther Donald Trump Really Want a New Civil Rights Agenda?

Updated Sep 7, 2016

What’s GOP candidate Donald Trump to do when polling data show weakness among both the educated and non-educated White electorate?

Why, look deep into his soul and start looking for “extra” votes in new places like Black churches, where he’ll call for a new civil rights agenda, of course.

There was no talk of walls or mass deportations from Trump at Detroit’s Great Faith Ministries International church on Saturday. But it was a glimpse of what we better get used to seeing: The Donald’s new Black pitch.

“I believe we need a civil rights agenda for our time,” Trump told the church goers. “One that insures the rights to a great education, so important, and the right to live in safety and in peace, and to have a really, really great job, a good paying job, and one you love to go to every morning. And that can happen.”

It wasn’t exactly the second coming of “I have a dream… .”

More like this odd 2016 campaign’s version of “If the mountain won’t come to Mohammad, Mohammad will go to the mountain.”

Only with Trump, no one named Mohammad is actually involved.

Still, there was candidate Trump looking for votes, even showing off some dance moves and doing his preacher karaoke, all for the benefit of the Black community, right at its symbolic core, the Black church.

“For centuries, the African-American church has been the conscience of our country,” Trump said in a soft, less aggressive and uncharacteristic way, reading directly from a hand-held script. There was no teleprompter at the podium. Just Trump holding a microphone, his head bobbing as he read the words written for him, and then, just to let us know he really believed what he was saying, he threw in lines for spontaneity’s sake like, “so true, so true.”

“It’s from the pews and pulpits and Christian teachings of Black churches all across this land that the civil rights community lifted up its soul and lifted up the soul of our nation,” Trump said. There is perhaps no action our leaders can take that would do more to heal our country and support our people than to provide a greater platform to the Black churches and church goers… I am here today to listen to your message, and I hope my presence here will also help your voice to reach new audiences in our country. And many of these audiences desperately need your spirit and your thought, I can tell you that… I am here today to learn so together we can 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.”

But just like last week, when Trump appeared serious before the Mexican president in one part of the day, only to come back later at another event to denounce the undocumented in a fiery anti-immigration speech, this was the Black community’s turn to see the twin faces of Trump.

Earlier in the month, Trump was more casual, speaking to a rally of mostly Whites, but trying to win Black votes by looking into the camera and asking, “What do you have to lose?”

At the church, Trump had a softer, serious tone.

“We’re one nation and when anyone hurts, we all hurt together, and that’s so true, so true,” Trump said, reading from his script. “We’re all brothers and sisters, and we’re all created by the same God. We must love each other and support each other. And we are in this all together, all together. I fully understand that the African-American community has suffered from discrimination and that there are many wrongs that must still be made right. They will be made right… I want to work with you to renew the bonds of trust between citizens and the bonds of faith that make our nation strong.”

While Trump pitched, activists protested outside the church.

“I believe Trump coming to Detroit is a joke,” Vicki Dobbins told a reporter.

But it seems to be the new Trump strategy of Black outreach. He’s already alienated Latinos and Asians with his harsh anti-immigration rhetoric. Who’s left? With polls showing his support among Blacks at less than 10 percent, any increase, even by a few points, could mean the margin of victory in a tight race.

To me, it’s clear he’s still the pandering, “Say Anything” Donald.

But that makes me think, all this may not be for Black voters so much as for the White skeptics who want to see a softer, thoughtful, serious Trump, instead of the aggressive capitalist bully he shows at his rallies.

Don’t know if Trump merely puts on the halo in church, but he certainly acts more presidential when he talks to African-Americans.

Maybe the birther has Obama envy? Just remembering that one episode should put Trump’s foray into the Black church into proper perspective.

Journalist and commentator Emil Guillermo writes on race, politics and society at http://www.aaldef.org/blog