Donald Trump has run afoul of the fact-checkers once again. Speaking in North Carolina, the Republican nominee claimed African-American communities “are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.”

Considering Trump’s Southern venue, one might conclude that this was at least a bit hyperbolic. After all, black American history has included slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act, the marauding of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow, among other injustices and indignities.

It’s the latest Trump paradox. He has begun to do the kind of minority outreach promoted by Republicans from Jack Kemp to Rand Paul yet he retains a tin ear on race. He was berated by the Congressional Black Caucus for declining to apologize for his “birther” advocacy against Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States.

When addressing the real problems of black poverty and unemployment, to say nothing of the crime that plagues many inner-city neighborhoods, Trump is often seen as condescending. “Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen,” Trump has said in reciting the litany of problems facing many American Americans before asking for their votes by saying, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Stripped of the unrefined and pejorative language, this doesn’t sound much different than the standard description of systemic racism other than the fact that Trump points the finger at the Democrats who govern many of these communities.

At the same time, the coarseness of Trump’s rhetoric is undeniably off-putting. It is reminiscent of the scene in the film “Gran Torino” in which Clint Eastwood takes a young friend to the barbershop to teach him how to engage in banter with other men. Eastwood’s character advises, “Don’t talk about having no job, no car, no girlfriend, no future…” It degenerates from there.

Trump’s cultural pessimism is also at odds with black public opinion. A recent Pew survey found that 51 percent of black voters believed things have gotten better for people like them in the last 50 years, more than 30 points ahead of the 20 percent who think it has gotten worse. Given that this half century includes everything from the civil-rights movement’s legislative successes to Obama’s presidency, this is not surprising.

More importantly, Trump has no credibility on these issues. Even when conventional Republicans use phrases like “law and order” they are accused of racist dog whistles. Trump was perhaps the country’s most prominent birther, a fact that many African Americans understand regard as a conscious attempt to delegitimize a black president. He demanded Obama’s birth certificate loudly in his own voice — not the same as an alleged whispering campaign by Democratic surrogates.

Trump has not always done enough to disavow racist support, leading his many detractors to speculate that he in fact welcomes it, and has widely been seen as painting everyone from Hispanics to African Americans to Muslims with an extremely broad brush. Mike Pence declining to use a specific adjective — “deplorable” — while disavowing David Duke’s support is debatable, Trump’s earpiece explanation for suggesting he did not know who Duke was a bit less plausible.

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Much of Trump’s current minority outreach has to be understood through the prism of many racially charged controversies that have turned off nonwhite voters. Polls in crucial battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania found Trump with 0 percent support among blacks.

Even many white Republicans worry Trump is racially biased. His pursuit of black votes is at least partly, if not primarily, designed to assuage them too. (Though one major poll, which has generally been favorable to Trump, has shown him making some inroads with African Americans.)

At the same time, some perspective is in order. “Trump painting the entire community as living in poverty with no jobs continues to show he is completely out of touch with the African American community,” the Clinton campaign retorted.

Poverty, jobs and gun violence remain staples of Democratic appeals to the black community. More optimistic portrayals have frequently been met with liberal scorn, such as the criticism of famous sitcoms featuring affluent black families.

Recent progressive commentary on police shootings and voter ID laws have been at least as dire as anything Trump has said, with one widely praised essay making the case for slavery reparations arguing, “The past two decades have witnessed a rollback of the progressive legislation of the 1960s,” a trend Obama’s election did not necessarily reverse.

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It is hard to avoid the conclusion that pessimism is fine when the ills in question can be traced to Republican reaction but are out of bounds if raised in the context of liberal accountability. Trump is the wrong messenger but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

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