OPINION

OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Disgusting, yes, but …


Donald Trump said odd things to and about Black people on Friday night. The Black people in the audience applauded. They laughed at his quip about only Black faces being visible to him amid the bright light otherwise blinding him at the podium.

That might have been a deep and beautiful metaphor--pure poetry--by someone else's sensitivity, context and execution.

Trump's context was that he, too, has suffered like Black people have suffered. Presumably Mar-a-Lago security personnel have been pulling him over in his golf cart for driving while orange.

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These audience members were members of a society of Black conservatives. There are polls that show Trump pulling down a fifth of the Black vote--that's 20 percent, not single digits, which is where the Republican vote among Blacks has lingered in recent decades. Polls suggest that the movement is largely among Black males under 40.

The upshot is that Black political attitudes do what white political attitudes do, which is vary.

Nikki Haley said on Saturday morning that Trump's comments of the night before had been "disgusting," because she's a conventional politician and that is the kind of thing conventional politicians say.

By the end of the day, Trump had beaten Haley 60-40 in the primary in South Carolina, where she'd been a popular governor for eight years. Black voters weren't a factor in that Republican primary. But disgust was a factor. It carried the day. It may carry the year, or maybe the era. And I don't mean an aversion to disgust carried the day. I mean disgustingness itself, which is seen these days in the eyes of increasingly fragmented beholders.

So, there was no real news there, from Trump's megalomaniacal bellow to Haley's conventionalism to Republican voters' firm determination about who and what they want in 2024. What they want is Trump, whatever he said last night. Or because of what he said last night.

Here it is Black History Month, and Trump evokes Black history in the only connection he has mastery of--his connection with himself. He told Black people they love him because he's in trouble with the law and being in trouble with the law is a Black thing.

He also said Barry Bonds was the home-run king but that he'd tell a white audience that Babe Ruth was. And they laughed again, because he was spoofing political pandering.

Haley attacked as disgusting a disgusting man she worked for and formerly extolled. She was for him before she was against him. It's what standard politicians do. It's ... well ... kind of disgusting.

Trump won the primary because today's Republicans see standard politics as a scourge. They prefer their politics rough, coarse, candid and anything but usual.

That those events of Friday and Saturday did not qualify as real news--because they were, you know, not new--did not mean there wasn't significance to be gleaned, or at least signals to be detected.

Among other shocks to the national system perhaps in store in November, there is the prospect that a crude offender will get the most Black votes ever for a Republican presidential candidate. And it just might be a decisive number in ever-close battleground states.

Haley said Trump's remarks reflected the chaos that he causes whenever he goes off the teleprompter. And I heard voices. They were those of mutterers saying at least Trump can go off the teleprompter.

The last time Joe Biden went off a teleprompter on race, he said that any Black person voting for Trump was not really Black. If it's disgusting for Trump to tell Black people he's just like them, as it is, then it's disgusting for Biden to tell Black people what they must think.

Biden paid no price for it. Black women voters delivered him the Democratic nomination and laid the foundation for his general election victory. Perhaps it was because they saw Biden's affront not as disgusting, but one or both of these things: Just Joe, and true.

When truth varies wildly among polarized population fragments, it's hard for anything to disgust pervasively.

Through it all, I assert as my most certain American political truth of 2024 a message I posted on social media last week: "Dear Democrats--I don't care how many times he gets indicted, sued, convicted and hit with injunctions and fines, even as he deserves all of it. You folks are still going to have to beat him politically in battleground states with politics, meaning message and connection."

In other words, Trump can't be disgusting enough for Democrats to win by that alone. They don't make disgust like they used to, and disgust these days cuts every which way.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected]. Read his @johnbrummett feed on X, formerly Twitter.


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