The deplorables

Jon Chait comes through with the post I’ve been waiting for.  Hell, yeah, a bunch of Trump supporters are deplorable.  That terms strikes me just fine for people who are supporting a candidate who appeals to their racism, sexism, misogyny, and xenophobia.  Hillary Clinton’s “gaffe”?  Telling the truth.  Of course, the media are running with this as if she somehow said she thinks Jesus is a fraud. Chait:

Following the classic definition of a gaffe as a politician telling the truth, Hillary Clinton’s comment about Donald Trump’s supporters (“just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it”) was the purest and most classic example. The national media has spent a year and a quarter documenting in exquisite, redundant detail the rabid, anti-intellectual nationalistic bigotry of Trump’s hard-core fanbase. But it has taken Hillary Clinton’s affirmation to transform this by-now-banal observation into a scandal. [emphases mine]

Back in February, Wall Street Journal editorial columnist Bret Stephensmourned that it had once been a slander that “Republicans were all closet bigots,” but “Not anymore. The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism.” Stephens proceeded to argue that Trump’s carefully hedged disavowal of David Duke failed to dent his support — “If anything it has enhanced it.” Now that Clinton has made the similar point in milder terms, absolving a larger proportion of Trump’s supporters than Stephens did, and choosing the gentler metaphor of a basket rather than a sewer, The Wall Street Journal editorial page is scandalized that Clinton was caught “attributing hateful motives to tens of millions of Americans.” Americans! Hateful! In large numbers! How dare she! …

Clinton controversially described half of Trump’s supporters as “irredeemable.” Trump earlier this year framed the same idea in a more colorful and perhaps more damning way: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Both statements reflect the same underlying truth: Trump enjoys a hard-core support that lies beyond persuasion, utterly immune to even the starkest factual evidence. Clinton committed a gaffe because she acknowledged a reality that literally every other person in America, including Donald Trump himself, is permitted to speak aloud.

And Libby Nelson reminds us that it was hardly a story at all when Lindsey Graham said essentially the same thing.

And Charles Blow lets loose in now uncertain terms:

Then, she continued: “But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

That second basket got too little attention. Context doesn’t provide the sizzle on which shock media subsists. Noted.

What Clinton said was impolitic, but it was not incorrect. There are things a politician cannot say. Luckily, I’m not a politician.

Donald Trump is a deplorable candidate — to put it charitably — and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period. Anyone who elevates a sexist is part of that sexism. The same goes for xenophobia. You can’t conveniently separate yourself from the detestable part of him because you sense in him the promise of cultural or economic advantage. That hair cannot be split.

Furthermore, one doesn’t have to actively hate to contribute to a culture that allows hate to flourish.

It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith — if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

What this really is is a story of how the media operates.  When there’s only so much actual campaign news going on (yes, even presidential candidates get pneumonia, but this happened first), anything the slightest bit novel– regardless of underlying actual newsworthiness– can break through.  Especially when it leads to heightened conflict (another media bias) and when politicians say what everybody knows and believes, but it leads to actually criticizing some Americans.  Seriously, it’s an open fact that a bunch of Trump supporters are deplorable in their racism, xenophobia, etc..  And have been called as much by Republicans.  Yet Hillary Clinton says this and it’s a huge story.  Ugh.

But, also, just a reminder, this is super unlikely to actually affect the election.  Despite all the flack Romney took for 47%, there’s pretty much no evidence this had any impact on the eventual outcome.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The deplorables

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    So – on the one hand Donald Trump is the king of “telling it like it is” talk. But he and his supporters (and the media) don’t like it at all when it’s coming at them.
    Hillary is supposed to act like a conventional candidate while Donald rule is that has no rules.
    It seems the media has no rules, no standard for it’s coverage.

  2. rgbact says:

    Graham just admitted that Republican voters really hate Obama, to the point of thinking irrational things about him, like he was born in Kenya. Thats not saying they are horrible people that he doesn’t want voting for him. If the Democrat elites wants to chase away all uneducated whites…..well take them.

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