Donald Trump recently asked minority voters like me, “What the hell do you have to lose [by voting for me]?” This question was part of the presidential nominee’s week-long pitch to minority voters. Mr. Trump spent the entire week highlighting failures by liberals to improve inner cities, and offered a brighter future under his administration.
Mr. Trump’s outreach would normally be seen as virtuous, but because he’s a Republican much of what he said has been attacked, twisted and misconstrued. Democrats lost no time dismissing his words as a cynical ploy to gain the support of not black, but moderate, white voters. This assertion is unfair because it assumes there is no way Mr. Trump can win support from black voters. But Mr. Trump is better than that. He can win minority support as well.
Yeah, that’s right, I said it. It is possible for Mr. Trump to win minority votes. His message of economic growth resonates with minorities. His message of safer streets resonates with minorities. His message of better education resonates with minorities. Democrat Hillary Clinton knows this, and it frightens her because she can’t afford to lose any minority votes, and it’s why she pushed back with a diatribe describing her opponent as little more than racist.
Now, to be clear, it will not be easy for the Republican nominee to win a significant amount of minority votes, but, “What the hell does he have to lose?” I think it’s fair to say Donald Trump has nothing to lose by reaching out to minorities and much to gain. Any votes he takes away from Mrs. Clinton increases his chances in November.
Democrats who would prefer he give up competing for minority support are arguing that by reaching out to minority voters Mr. Trump is risking his base, who they simply assume consists of a bunch of racists and misanthropes. How racist is that? A recent pro-Hillary ad provides a perfect example. In the ad, a Ku Klux Klan member stands in his white robes and states he is supporting Mr. Trump — insinuating that only racists support the presidential nominee. (If that is acceptable reasoning, then Mrs. Clinton’s supporters must all be communists because the chairman of the Communist Party USA is a Clinton supporter). This is ludicrous reasoning — even if one acknowledges that some Trump supporters are actually racist and a few of his opponent’s voters are Communists.
If the candidate’s outreach convinces the racists in his camp that he isn’t one of them, what are they going to do about it? Are they going to vote for Mrs. Clinton? No, of course not. And if he begins to attract minority support, the votes he gains will more than offset the few he loses from bigots who throw up their hands and stay at home on Election Day.
I witnessed an example of Mr. Trump attracting minority support during a drive to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport last week. My Uber driver — a black woman — asked me about my views on the election. Not wanting to get involved in a debate that might turn ugly, I turned her question around by asking for her views instead. She said used to hate Mr. Trump, but now she thinks she may actually vote for him because he is candidly addressing issues facing a significant portion of the black community.
I understand the reaction of one D.C. black voter doesn’t suggest that Mr. Trump is going to woo a majority of black voters away from the Democratic nominee, but her words convince me that Mr. Trump’s “tell it like it is” approach may be opening some eyes.
Mr. Trump shouldn’t shy away from what he’s said because his critics wish he would shut up. He should double down, but do so in a more nuanced manner. In a speech this past week he said, “And I say to the African-American parent: You have a right to walk down the street of your city without having your child or yourself shot.” But not all blacks live in crime-ridden neighborhoods, and it is a mistake to put them all into the same box. Millions of black voters are middle-class citizens who live not in the inner cities, but in the suburbs. To make his statement more persuasive, all he would have to do is refer to his target audience as “African-American parents who live in inner cites.” This would be a simple change, but a powerful one.
Despite what polls say now, this will be a close election. Every single vote will count. So I ask again, “What the hell does Donald Trump have to lose?” It’s a win-win situation for him and for the country. By reaching out to minorities he can help mend a broken polity while impressing moderate white voters and attracting support from minority voters who Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is taking for granted.
• Tony Black, a former producer of “The Hugh Hewitt Show” and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree at the University of Michigan Law school.