More deplorables

I was about to put this into quick hits, but it’s too good.  Ta-Nahesi Coates on the media and the deplorables:

Indeed, what Breitbart understood, what his spiritual heir Donald Trump has banked on, what Hillary Clinton’s recent pillorying has clarified, is that white grievance, no matter how ill-founded, can never be humiliating nor disqualifying. On the contrary, it is a right to be respected at every level of American society from the beer-hall to the penthouse to the newsroom.

The comment was “a self-inflicted wound” claimed the Washington Post reporter Dan Balz. “It was very close to the dictionary definition of bigoted,” asserted John Heilemann. My colleague Ron Fournier and the Post’s Aaron Blake were both taken aback by the implicit math of Clinton’s statement. “Clinton appeared to be slapping the ‘racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic’ label on about 20 percent of the country,” wrote Blake in a post whose headline echoed that of the Trump campaign manager’s website. “That’s no small thing.” Whether or not it was a false thing remained uninvestigated. [emphasis mine]

Instead what followed was not journalism but, as Jamelle Bouie accurately dubbed it, “theater criticism.” Fournier and Blake’s revulsion at the thought that some 20 percent of the country, in some fashion, fit into that basket is illustrative. Neither made any apparent attempt to investigate the claim. No polling data appears in either piece and no reasons are given for why the estimate is untrue. It simply can’t be true—even if the data says that it actually is

To understand how truly bizarre this method of opining is, consider the following: Had polling showed that relatively few Trump supporters believe black people are lazy and criminally-inclined, if only a tiny minority of Trump supporters believed that Muslims should be banned from the country, if birtherism carried no real weight among them, would journalists decline to point this out as they excoriated her? Of course not. But the case against Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” is a triumph of style over substance, of clamorous white grievance over knowable facts.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to More deplorables

  1. rgbact says:

    So, this guy thinks 20% of Americans are deplorable then, I’d be curious how many Democrats agree. Wish media would start asking them.

  2. Jon K says:

    While I agree that it is reasonable to think that 20% of the country may hold racist, sexist, homophobic, etc views I don’t see the point in saying it the way she said it. Many of the people that fall into that category wouldn’t be willing to admit it to themselves. They will just interpret it through the lens of Hillary is just an elite east coast liberal who looks down her nose at them. Calling people out like that, and making blanket statements about that many people just invites the type of blowback she’s getting. You catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. I think she’s better off not making statements like that and focusing instead on bringing people into the tent. Trump is doing a good enough job of showing his deplorable qualities. He doesn’t need Hillary to point them out.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Of course that was something she never should have said where people could hear her. Of course, of course. But that doesn’t mean the media reaction is not extremely problematic.

      • Jon K says:

        So it could be in a sense much like Romney’s 47% comment. Broad generalizations in public are going to piss people off every time they are made. Except perhaps for Donald Trump.

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