Hillary Clinton pointedly remarked on Friday that half of Donald Trump’s voters are in “the basket of deplorables,” giving everyone something new to chew on over the weekend. She had already given a speech regarding Trump and the alt-right, and with this restatement, Clinton poked the online regressive movement right in the eye. The results were predictable.
Negative reactions to Clinton’s words have followed down two parallel tracks. On the right, blogs and social media buzzed with outrage. The alt-right was instantly indignant that someone they have repeatedly and heatedly denounced as a “criminal,” “murderer,” or various other unprintable epithets would have the indecency to call them what they are: “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”
In the Bothsiderist media, Clinton’s words are seen as a terrible gaffe, the equivalent of Mitt Romney saying that 47% of Americans were too lazy and dependent on government to vote for him. Conventional political wisdom holds that candidates should resist offending their opponent’s supporters.
There even was some participation on the left from Bernie-or-bust types still stung by Democratic voters’ rejection of their sainted senator from Vermont. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, now running neck-and-neck in the polls with Harambe the gorilla, decided to pile onto an establishment narrative for once.
But there are very good reasons to doubt that Clinton will see any electoral backlash from this. For one, all the bigots and haters have already decided to vote for Trump. That was a fact on full display in the whining and whingeing yesterday by the same people who like to shout “Hang the bitch!” at Trump’s rallies.
— Adam Khan (@Khanoisseur) September 10, 2016
Another reason to doubt this will hurt Hillary: Trump has spent the entire campaign offending everyone from the handicapped to immigrants to Mormons — everyone, that is, except the sort of people who think President Barack Obama is a Muslim, or who yearn to ban homosexuals from entering the United States, or who tell pollsters that “whites are the superior race.”
Trump says undeniably racist things, speaks in the language of white supremacy, retweets racists and uses their images — all signs of a conscious appeal to white power politics. He genuinely, undeniably has “built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia” towards every minority in turn. Racists, haters of every stripe, and crank conspiracy-mongers actually run his campaign.
That’s why Trump is a non-entity with African Americans and has record unfavorables with Latinos. It’s why polls show Hillary could even win in Texas as the map changes to accommodate Trump’s white nationalist campaign.
Note that Clinton’s full remark was clearly aimed at dividing Trump voters into two “baskets”:
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. They are just desperate for change. 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.
That is a debate Hillary Clinton can win. On point after point, her policy statements are robust while Trump makes it up on the fly like the lazy C student that he is.
His apologists should be made to explain why Clinton is wrong about a voting bloc that makes up half of Trump’s retweets, that thrills on social media when Trump jokes about assassinating his opponent.
Media flacks should have to explain why actual white nationalist leaders refer to Trump as “the Great Leader,” hold press conferences in support of his candidacy, and pay for robocalls against Trump‘s opponents if Hillary is so wrong.
Let surrogates deny that David Duke and friends see Trump’s candidacy as their last and best hope for preserving white supremacy in America, or that neo-Nazis are thrilled at the prospect of a Trump presidency, or that one in five Trump supporters thinks it was wrong for Abraham Lincoln to free the slaves if they want.
These questions deserve to be asked, and more to the point they deserve real answers, not deflections.
If network or cable bloviators prefer to deny that two out of five Trump voters believe blacks are more violent, or that the most violent Trump supporters seem the most ardent about his candidacy, or that racists show out for Trump’s rallies, then by all means let them do so, so that we may all know which side they are on.
It may be politically incorrect to have this discussion inside the Beltway, a media la-la land where ‘both sides’ are forever equally bankrupt and at fault. But the truth is that racist whites probably make up more than half of Trump’s support. Any other discussion starts on a false foundation.
We need to have this talk as a nation — whether we want to or not.
72% of Clinton backers & 43% of Trump backers say increased diversity makes US better place to live https://t.co/NrGrHsBWMQ
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) September 10, 2016
Complaints that Clinton was “inartful” or that her choice of words was “awkward” belie the shallow depth of the American commentariat. The right has always had a phrase for such blubbering. “Hillary Clinton was politically incorrect,” writes Ta-Nahesi Coates, “but she wasn’t wrong about Trump’s supporters.”
When Hillary Clinton claims that half of Trump’s supporters qualify as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic,” data is on her side. One could certainly argue that determining the truth of a candidate’s claims is not a political reporter’s role. But this is not a standard that political reporters actually adhere to.
Determining, for instance, whether Hillary Clinton has been truthful about her usage of e-mail while she was secretary of state has certainly been deemed part of the political reporter’s mission. Moreover, Clinton is repeatedly—and sometimes validly—criticized for a lack of candor. But all truths are not equal. And some truths simply break the whole system.
Open and acknowledged racism is, today, both seen as a disqualifying and negligible feature in civic life.
It’s good that Hillary Clinton has opened this discussion. Now if only the opinion-and-news industry bothered to actually have it, then we might get somewhere in our long-delayed reckoning with race in America. Until we do, pandering frauds like Trump will continue to rise. and distrust in the Fourth Estate will keep eroding our power to check such creatures.Click here for reuse options!
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