Will Clarke Hurt GOP With Black Voters?
His speech adds to anti-black tone at Republican convention, but heightens sheriff’s fame.
Republicans are alienating black voters at their convention, a New York Times story reported, and one of the worst example of that was a speech by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, some Republicans suggested.
In Clarke’s speech, he didn’t just declare that “blue lives matter,” but argued that “the Black Lives Matter movement was contributing to ‘a collapse of social order,’” the story noted. “He also praised the acquittal of one of the Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray.”
Clarke was among several speakers, including former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Darryl Glenn, a commissioner of El Paso County, Colo., who is African-American, whose speeches “seemed focused more on castigating black protesters, scolding other blacks for their behavior… than on trying to help Republicans make inroads with undecided or skeptical black voters,” the story noted.
Some Republicans told the Times “they were uncomfortable that convention planners had tapped black speakers to chastise black protesters in front of a mostly white crowd, which seemed to lap it up.”
The GOP, of course, hasn’t done well with black voters going back decades, but the candidacy of Donald Trump, who has gotten significant support from white supremacy groups, could lower the black GOP vote even further. Recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls in Ohio and Pennsylvania showed Trump had no support — zero percent — of black respondents.
“For many black Republicans, the party’s convention has veered unexpectedly and unhappily toward lecturing and moralizing on issues of race, an off-putting posture at a time when Mr. Trump is staggeringly unpopular with minority voters,” the Times reported.
Telly Lovelace, national director for African-American initiatives and urban media for the Republican National Committee, told the Times he felt uncomfortable during some speeches, including Clarke’s: “I don’t think Sheriff Clarke fully understands what those who live in urban communities, and particularly black men, have to deal with and have to go through, dealing with the police and being racially profiled,” he said. “And Black Lives Matter is not this quote-unquote anarchist movement, as he described it in his speech.”
Clarke has long been a critic of Black Lives Matter, calling the group “garbage” and “black slime,” among other epithets, as Mother Jones reported.
It would be ironic if Clarke’s speech does cause problems for the GOP, given that he has done everything he can to hurt the Democratic Party, even as he has run for office as a Democrat. But whatever the impact on the GOP, Clarke’s speech has heightened the media profile of a man who “has become a conservative icon for his passionate defense of police amidst allegations of abuse of minorities across America,” as the Daily Mail put it.
“Arguably the biggest hit at the Republican National Convention so far has been Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who spoke the first night,” Cleveland radio station WKOW concluded.
Clarke got many requests for interviews from the media, a GOP source told me. CNN had Clarke on as a guest, where he had a heated exchange with interviewer Don Lemon.
“Clarke blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for inspiring violent crimes against law enforcement officers, calling the group ‘purveyors of hate,’” CNN reported. “Lemon pressed Clarke for specifics, but the sheriff didn’t offer any.
Clarke may have outdone himself when it comes to alliteration, offering this salvo to CNN on Black Lives Matter: “They teach vile and vitriol in the name of virtue.”