Black Delegates at GOP Convention at Lowest Level in History

Only 18 out of 2,472 delegates in Cleveland are Black, the lowest percentage in over a century.
Moses Frenck

The percentage of Black delegates at this year’s Republican convention in Cleveland has dropped to its lowest level in recorded history — around 0.7 percent — with only 18 Black delegates out of a total of 2,472.

The RNC does not break out Latino or Asian delegates, and the breakout of those delegates does not appear to be tracked by third parties.

The data compiled by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which has recorded the number of Black delegates at every GOP convention back to 1912, found that the highest number and percentage of Black delegates at a Republican convention was for the re-nomination of President George W. Bush in 2004. During that gathering in New York City, 167 Black delegates represented 6.5 percent of all GOP delegates, a number that has since plummeted. GOP delegates

During the last presidential election in 2012, 47 Black delegates represented 2.1 percent of the total GOP delegates at the convention in Tampa, and in 2008, when Sen. John McCain was nominated to run against then-Sen. Barack Obama, 39 Black delegates represented 1.6 percent of GOP delegates in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The fewest actual number of Black delegates at a GOP convention was 14, or 1 percent, of the 1,308 total delegates at the 1964 convention that nominated Barry Goldwater shortly after passage of the Civil Rights Act, which he staunchly opposed.

The strained relationship between the Republican Party and Black Americans has been exacerbated this year with increased racist overtones by Trump and others in the party — such as comments from Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa as recently as Monday saying non-whites have not contributed to the advancement of human civilization.

The rhetoric continued on the convention stage Monday night when two Black speakers criticized the Black Lives Matter movement and praised the acquittal of the Baltimore police officers charged with killing Freddie Gray.

The overwhelmingly white delegates in attendance seemed unable to contain their excitement with rousing applause as Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. said Black Lives Matter was contributing to “a collapse of social order” and described its protests as “anarchy.”

Meanwhile, Darryl Glenn, a Black county commissioner from Colorado, drew even more applause from the audience when he said, “Somebody with a nice tan needs to say this: All lives matter!” He added, “If we really want to heal our communities, more men need to start stepping up and taking care of their children … safe neighborhoods happen when fathers and mothers are in the home.”

A Quinnipiac University poll this month showed Trump earning 1 percent of the Black vote nationally, and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that zero percent of Black voters in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania are supporting Trump.

For example, in Ohio, 11 percent of the 848 registered voters in the NBC/WSJ poll were Black and chose Clinton over Trump 88 percent to 0 percent. In Pennsylvania, 10 percent of the 829 voters are Black and chose Clinton over Trump 91 percent to 0 percent.

Despite the small amount of people of color at the GOP convention in Cleveland, viewers of the convention on TV commented to DiversityInc that there were noticeably more minorities seated close to the stage and wondered if those people were placed strategically for the purpose of the television cameras capturing and showing the wide diversity.

Upon closer inspection, however, it appears the seats up front belong to the delegations from New York, New Jersey and California, and those delegations just happen to be bigger in number and have more diverse populations. The seating priority was given to states that delivered well for Trump in the primaries, while states like Texas that voted for Ted Cruz were relegated to the back. Host states traditionally have front row seats, but since Ohio’s delegates supported Gov. John Kasich, those delegates were given less-than-stellar seats.

(Originally published in DiversityInc July 20, 2016.)