Bruce Carter’s day job is convincing people of things. He describes himself as a “pretty successful marketing guy” who works as a business coach. Carter’s political life amid the 2016 election, though, consisted of attempts to bring African American support to two politicians that have faced difficulties with black voters—efforts that have both largely fallen flat.
Earlier this year, Carter threw his support behind Democratic primary contender Bernie Sanders, starting up a fledgling “Black Men For Bernie” operation. Carter said he backed Sanders because of the the Vermont socialist’s economic policies, which Carter thought would help black people in a way that Clinton’s proposals wouldn’t.
Despite Carter’s efforts, Sanders struggled to win the support of African Americans—a constituency that helped propel Hillary Clinton to victory, and the top of the Democratic ticket. That’s when Carter took what seems like an unlikely turn: converting his pro-Bernie group into a “Trump for Urban Communities” organization.
“For me, in supporting Donald Trump, my support comes with a concept of actually having a partnership that allows for his expertise in real estate, economic development,” he tells me over the phone.
Trump could certainly use the help building support among African Americans. Trump consistently garners single-digit support from black voters—or less: This summer, he was polling at an astounding 0% among black voters in key swing states.
Over the course of the election, Trump dispatched black campaign staffers and surrogates such as Omarosa Manigault, Don King and others to black communities to no avail. Carter feels he is different, though—with a unique insight into what needs to be done.
Last week, Carter said he was scheduled to have a meeting with Trump himself. He planned on telling the GOP candidate: “You gotta get people who are on the streets, in the grind, from the back alley to the apartment door who can go in and relate to people, spend time with them, and, number one, gain the trust of those people.”
But the meeting never happened. In response to a follow-up question, Carter says he did have a meeting with “the right people”—but declined to specify exactly who. (The Trump campaign did not respond to an inquiry about the purported meeting.)
Since the conventions in July, Carter says he himself has been on a mission to gain the people’s trust. He claims to have spoken to 4,000 to 5000 black folks “up and down the east coast” about why they should back Trump instead of Clinton.
Much of his Carter’s support for Trump over Clinton is predicated upon his disdain for the former Secretary of State. His knock on the first female major party candidate is drawn from one of Trump’s most well worn talking points: that Clinton has done so little—and, particularly, little for black people—in 30 years in public life.
“I do not believe or see Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party doing any more than what has happened in the past eight years,” Carter says. “I don’t want to hear about health care. If you’re unemployed and have no income, you can’t afford the health care.”
It’s not just Clinton; the Democratic Party—which Carter once sought to use as a vehicle to get Sanders to the White House—is an equal part of the problem. “Let me put it like this: for someone or something that already owns you, you can’t negotiate with them,” Carter says. “They own you. So, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party own the black vote.”
And it’s not just that. Carter now buys wholesale into talking up “conservative America”:
“It is bigger than Donald Trump. I’m talking about all of the conservative, Republican individuals in America who want a change to see people’s lives get better.”
Carter can perhaps be forgiven for embracing conservative Republicans with such zeal—the country’s polarized politics don’t allow for much nuance if you want to stay relevant. But there is nonetheless a gap of logic. On the one hand, the best politician for African Americans is a redistributive socialist; on the other, if not the socialist, one should sing the praises of a whole party espousing laissez faire with a predatory real estate developer at its helm.
Apparently untroubled by these inconsistencies in his own record, Carter has thrown himself into supporting Trump. Like most black people who back Trump, Carter is an outlier. Many black voters see thinly-veiled racism in Trump’s campaign. Carter’s demurs.
Carter took no issue when, in August, Trump told a mostly-white crowd in Ohio, “You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats.”
“That particular line didn’t offend me,” he says, “but I definitely would have worded it different if I was trying to build a relationship with someone.”