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Race and racism in the 2016 campaign

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Presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

WASHINGTON– Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a bigot.

Clinton argued that Trump was normalizing white nationalism.

Trump, speaking to a nearly all-white audience, painted African-Americans with a stereotypically broad brush as “living in poverty.”

Then there was a cartoon version of Clinton in blackface and David Duke embraced Trump, who later disavowed him.

And that’s just this month.

Race and racism have always coursed through American politics. But racial issues aren’t just sparking the occasional flashpoint this campaign cycle — they are a constant and troubling feature of the contest. The developments over the past month underscore the steady stream of divisive language, racially charged imagery and flat-out racist statements permeating this election season.

All this comes as Trump tries to enhance his image among minority voters, particularly African-Americans and Latinos. The Republican nominee will head to Mexico Wednesday to meet with the president of that country ahead of a major immigration speech in Arizona. He will be in Detroit this weekend to speak at a black church.

“Tonight I am asking for the vote of every African-American and Hispanic citizen in this country who wants to see a better future, who wants to see real, positive change,” Trump said late Tuesday during a speech in Everett, Washington.

But he faces an uphill climb — to say the least. Trump’s rhetoric around race, ethnicity and nationality have depressed his numbers among every demographic — he is underperforming past Republican presidential candidates in nearly every voting bloc.

A Quinnipiac poll released last week found that a majority of likely voters — 59% — think that the way Trump talks appeals to bigotry. Some 29% of Republicans think that way and 72% of non-whites have the same view.

Trump’s attempts to broaden his reach beyond his core supporters have largely backfired and likely hardened views against him.

Mark Burns, Trump’s most prominent black surrogate, spent much of Tuesday apologizing for tweeting an offensive cartoon that showed Clinton in black face and speaking in dialect. The tweet was supposedly an attempt to broaden Trump’s appeal to African-Americans by suggesting Clinton didn’t deserve the support of black voters. (Trump now polls in the low single digits among black voters).

“Obviously, my message, I stand by it, but the methodology I do not,” Burns said Tuesday in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.” “The message is simply this: I believe that the Democrat party has been using the black vote.”

Trump will likely aim to hammer that message when he appears in Detroit on Saturday.

Yet he has mostly stumbled in his appeals so far, displaying a tin ear when it comes to a key voting bloc.

“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” Trump asked African Americans as he stood before an overwhelmingly white audience in Michigan recently.

Last weekend, when NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin was shot, Trump put a political spin on a family tragedy.

“Dwayne Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago,” he tweeted, misspelling Wade’s name. “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

Bishop Wayne T. Jackson is set to host Trump on Saturday morning at his church, Great Faith Ministries International. He told the Detroit News that he is facing some backlash for his meeting with Trump, but planned to bring up tough issues.

“I’m going to ask him that question: Are you a racist?” Jackson said in an interview with the Detroit News. “I’m going to ask him questions that pertain to the heart of our community. … But there’s a lot of emotional anger tied to this, and we need to make sure that our concerns as a community are met.”