Eight years after Barack Obama told a San Francisco audience that many people in red states “clung to guns and religion,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday illustrated in Manhattan that the most politically hazardous place for a liberal politician to be is at a fundraiser full of smug deep blue state liberals. She declared, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” The others were people who the government had let down and she said, “Those are people we have to understand and empathize with.”
Both Secretary Clinton’s statement and the reaction many conservatives had to it are problematic.
She is running for President of the United States, of all the people, and people who are voting for Donald Trump make up around 40% of the electorate. She divides 40% of Americans into a portion she loathes and a portion she patronizes. As Marco Rubio declared, a president should “love all of the American people, even the ones that don’t love you back.”
The truth is that Mrs. Clinton’s corrupt, out of touch, and imperious character make a Donald Trump presidency possible. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 64% of those who vote for Trump are doing it as a vote against Clinton. That’s the biggest “basket” of Trump voters. Trump cannot win this election, but Secretary Clinton can lose it. The greatest service Secretary Clinton could do her party would be stand aside and let her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) , take over as the presidential candidate, as he’d beat Trump by double digits.
However, conservative commentators hoping this is some deadly gaffe for her campaign are trying to pass off wishful thinking as analysis. Here comment was compared to Mitt Romney’s comment in the 2012 campaign when he said that the 47% of Americans who didn’t pay income tax were unlikely to vote for him. In that case, the comment was spun to suggest that Romney thought people in this 47% (which included people on social security and those receiving veteran’s benefits) were all leaches who wanted government handouts and therefore wouldn’t vote Republican. Clinton, on the other hand, suggests negative things about Trump supporters. And, according to Trump’s campaign manager several weeks ago, many people who support Trump are embarrassed to admit it to pollsters. Given many Trump voters are doing so secretively, it’s absurd to imagine that attaching a stigma to supporting Trump can be as damaging as pundits imagine.
More to the point, all Secretary Clinton proved is that she’s not fit to be President of all Americans. Good thing for her is that her opponent is Donald Trump who has insulted nearly every group imaginable with little objection from his supporters. In light of the candidate they’re supporting, Trump supporter objections seem overwrought, as if the only group in America it’s not okay to insult are Trump supporters. The simple truth is both major nominees will only divide our country further if elected.
In addition, if we’re honest, there’s some truth to Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” statement. She was factually wrong to state half were in that basket and she has acknowledged that. But the Trump campaign really does have some truly deplorable people backing it.
Roger Stone, a former Trump advisor, has repeatedly issued subtle and not-so-subtle threats of violence. David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has stated Trump could be the white knight of white nationalists in this country. Rocky Suhayda, chairman of the American Nazi Party has declared a Trump election would be “a real opportunity.” Columnist Ann Coulter called for Donald Trump to “deport Governor Nikki Haley” an Indian American who was born in South Carolina. Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon transformed Breitbart into a platform for the racist alt-right.
William Johnson, a designated Trump delegate for California, was outed as a white nationalist and resigned. He stated there were many more white nationalist delegates for Trump who were under the radar. A Utah delegate to the Republican National Convention was threatened in the bathroom by a Trump supporter. Death threats from Trump supporters have led radio talk show host Erick Erickson to hire 24/7 security. Trump supporters have posted countless anti-Semitic and racist comments and tweets all over the Internet, many of which Trump has retweeted.
While every campaign has some nutty supporters, from the Campaign CEO to prominent media surrogates to convention delegates to Twitter trolls, Donald Trump has a high number of deplorable people supporting him at every level of his campaign. Trump has done little to discourage any of this. He once offered to pay the legal fees of supporters arrested for beating up protestors. He also issued a very tepid, “I disavow” statement on David Duke that would allow him to technically claim to not agree with Duke while also not alienating the white nationalists in his base. Compare this to Ronald Reagan’s strong repudiation of racists’ support when he was running for President.
Secretary Clinton offended many decent people who have problems with Trump, but are trying to make the best of a bad choice and are voting primarily against her in supporting Trump. That’s their right, but they shouldn’t kid themselves. Joining them on the Trump Train are people who hold ideologies that, when given free reign, led to lynchings and have laid continents waste. Also riding along are people who are just plain abusive, cruel, and vile. If that truth bothers you, get off at the next stop.