The top spokesman for the Republican National Committee defended Donald Trump's outreach and appeal to black voters, citing the color-blind membership policy of the GOP nominee's swanky South Florida Mar-a-Lago golf club.
Sean Spicer, who is reportedly working more closely with the Trump campaign through his role at the RNC, spoke to CNN Wednesday about Trump's recent entreaty to black voters. Trump, speaking in Michigan last week, asked black voters, "What the hell do you have to lose?" The GOP nominee cited poverty and bad schools in many predominately black communities.
Spicer argued that many of the large urban areas where black Americans live have been dominated by Democratic governance. "I think his point is, Look, you've been told by the Democrats over and over again that you must vote with us, their vote has been taken for granted, what do you have to lose? We've got solutions to lift people out of poverty, to give them a good education, to help small businesses succeed, to put people back to work."
Then Spicer added a second point as evidence of Trump's appeal to black voters: that the real-estate mogul made his Mar-A-Lago golf club racially and ethnically integrated.
"In 1985, when he went and bought Mar-a-Lago and all the liberals down in Palm Beach County didn't let people join clubs and institutions because of the color of their skin or the religion that they belong to, it was Donald Trump that went down and bucked the establishment and fought to make sure people, no matter what the color of their skin or the religion that they believe in, could join his clubs," said Spicer.
It's true that during the mid-1980s, some golf and country clubs in South Florida were still effectively segregated—though more along religious lines, with separate clubs for Gentiles and Jews. Trump's more "freewheeling" Mar-a-Lago (he converted the estate to a private club in the 1990s) apparently rocked the Palm Beach establishment in many ways, though the divide appears to have been just as much between the opposing styles of "old money" and "new money."
The Washington Post last year documented how Trump's efforts to develop Mar-a-Lago hit plenty of regulatory roadblocks from the local government in Palm Beach. To overcome the restrictions, Trump engaged in a PR battle to shame the city council over its willingness to overlook Palm Beach's effectively segregated country clubs:
The town council, seeing Trump as an ostentatious outsider, handed him a list of restrictions as he sought to transform the property in the 1990s. Membership, traffic, party attendance, even photography — all would be strictly limited. But Trump undercut his adversaries with a searing attack, claiming that local officials seemed to accept the established private clubs in town that had excluded Jews and blacks while imposing tough rules on his inclusive one. Trump's lawyer sent every member of the town council copies of two classic movies about discrimination: "A Gentleman's Agreement," about a journalist who pretends to be Jewish to expose anti-Semitism, and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" about a white couple's reaction to their daughter bringing home a black fiance. The move infuriated council members, who said it was a distraction from their concerns that Trump's club would spoil a quiet street. But, in time, Trump got most of the restrictions lifted.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has asked Spicer how many members of Mar-a-Lago are black. Spicer replied he doesn't know but would check.
Trump is currently polling in the low single digits among black voters.