Trump Michigan trip includes stops at a Black church and a gathering of MAGA activists

Trump Michigan trip includes stops at a Black church and a gathering of MAGA activists

AP
Updated16 Jun 2024, 12:07 AM IST
Trump Michigan trip includes stops at a Black church and a gathering of MAGA activists
Trump Michigan trip includes stops at a Black church and a gathering of MAGA activists

DETROIT (AP) — Donald Trump will use back-to-back stops Saturday to court Black voters and a conservative group that has been accused of attracting white supremacists as the Republican presidential candidate works to stitch together a coalition of historically divergent interests in battleground Michigan.

Trump is scheduled to host an afternoon roundtable at an African American church in downtown Detroit. Later he will appear at the “People's Convention” of Turning Point Action, a group that the Anti-Defamation League says has been linked to a variety of extremists.

Roughly 24 hours before Trump planned to address the conference, well-known white supremacist Nick Fuentes entered Turning Point’s convention hall surrounded by a group of cheering supporters. He was quickly escorted out by security.

Fuentes created political problems for Trump after Fuentes attended a private lunch with the former president and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West at Trump’s Florida estate in 2022.

Trump's weekend plans underscore the evolving political forces shaping the presidential election this fall as he tries to deny Democratic President Joe Biden a second term.

Few states are expected to matter more in November than Michigan, which Biden carried by less than 3 percentage points four years ago. And few voting groups matter more to Democrats than African Americans, who made up the backbone of Biden's political base in 2020. But now, less than five months before Election Day, Black voters are expressing modest signs of disappointment with the 81-year-old Democrat.

Michael Whatley, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Michigan Republicans at a dinner Friday that the state could not be more important.

“Everybody knows if we don’t win Michigan, we’re not going to have a Republican in the White House,” Whatley said. “Let me be more blunt: If we don’t win Michigan, we’re not going to have Donald Trump in the White House.”

“We are going to determine the fate of the world in this election in November,” he added.

Trump argues he can pull in more Black voters due to his economic and border security message, and that his felony indictments make him more relatable.

Democrats are offering a competing perspective.

“Donald Trump is so dangerous for Michigan and dangerous for America and dangerous for Black people,” Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, who is African American, said Friday.

He said it was “offensive” for Trump to address the Turning Point conference, which was taking place at the same convention center that was “the epicenter of their steal the election effort.”

Indeed, dozens of angry Trump loyalists chanting “Stop the count!” descended on the TCF Center, now named Huntington Place, the day after the 2020 presidential election as absentee ballots were being counted. Local media captured scenes of protesters outside and in the lobby. Police prevented them from entering the counting area.

The protests took place after Trump had tweeted that “they are finding Biden votes all over” in several states, including Michigan.

The false notion that Biden benefited from widespread voter fraud has been widely debunked by voting officials in both parties, the court system and members of Trump's former administration. Still, Trump continues to promote such misinformation, which echoed throughout the conservative convention over the weekend.

Speaking from the main stage, Turning Point founder and CEO Charlie Kirk falsely described the conference location as “the scene of a crime.”

Such extreme rhetoric does not appear to have hurt Trump's standing with Black voters, however.

Among Black adults, Biden’s approval has dropped from 94% when he started his term in January 2021 to just 55%, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll published in March.

About 8 in 10 Black voters have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, with roughly two-thirds saying they have a “very unfavorable” view of him, according to an AP-NORC poll conducted in June. About 2 in 10 Black voters have a very or somewhat favorable view of Trump.

Trump won 8% of the Black vote in 2020, according to AP VoteCast. And in what is expected to be a close election, even a modest shift could be consequential.

Maurice Morrison, a 67-year-old lifelong Detroit resident, plans to attend Trump’s church appearance. Morrison acknowledged that Trump, for whom he voted twice before and plans to again, is deeply unpopular in his community and even inside his home.

“Once he decided to run for president as a Republican, that automatically made him racist. That’s his middle name now — ‘Trump is racist’ — everybody I talk to, all the people I know, my family,” said Morrison, who is Black. “The man cares.”

Meanwhile, thousands of conservative activists, most of them young and white, were eagerly awaiting Trump’s keynote address Saturday night.

Turning Point has emerged as a force in GOP politics in the Trump era, particularly among his “Make America Great Again” movement, despite the ADL's warning that the group “continues to attract racists.”

“Numerous individuals associated with the group have made bigoted statements about the Black community, the LGBTQ community and other groups,” the ADL, an international anti-hate group, wrote in a background memo. “While TPUSA (Turning Point USA) leaders say they reject white supremacist ideology, known white nationalists have attended their events.”

Turning Point spokesperson Andrew Kolvet dismissed the ADL's characterization as “smears and lies.” He added that Turning Point has been blocking Fuentes from attending its events for “years.”

"The ADL is a scourge on America, which sows poison and division. They’ve completely lost the plot," Kolvet said, describing the ADL's criticism as “a badge of honor.”

Turning Point, long popular among Trump's MAGA fringe, is now a central player in mainstream Republican politics. The group's weekend speaking program featured a long list of established Republican politicians, including U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. It also included former Trump counselor Steve Bannon, who is set to report to prison by July 1 to begin serving a four-month sentence for defying a U.S. House subpoena.

In his remarks Friday night, Vivek Ramaswamy, who has emerged as a fierce Trump ally since unsuccessfully challenging Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, called on conservatives to reject what he said was the Democrats' embrace of diversity.

“I am sick and tired of celebrating our diversity,” Ramaswamy charged. “It means nothing unless there is something greater that unites us.”

___

Associated Press writer Linley Sanders in Washington contributed to this report.

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First Published:16 Jun 2024, 12:07 AM IST
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