Opinion: The Basket of Deplorables – by Yosef Stein

ysOn September 9, Hillary Clinton violated one of the cardinal rules of campaigning for any office- not to attack your opponent’s voters. At a fundraiser for Hillary in New York City, just the sixth one this year that was open to the press, she proclaimed that “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” She didn’t stop there, going on to label half of Trump’s supporters as racists, xenophobes, and Islamaphobes. She also called these people “irredeemable” and “not America.” Attacking rank-and-file citizens in this manner was obviously not a smart move. Her polarizing rhetoric will not win her any new voters, and it will likely feature in Republican attack ads from now through Election Day. Many reluctant Trump supporters who were previously ambivalent about voting for the colorful real estate mogul likely feel personally offended now, and as such are more likely to turn out to defeat Hillary on November 8.

Reaction from the Trump campaign was as swift as it was harsh. “Just when Hillary Clinton said she was going to start running a positive campaign, she ripped off her mask and revealed her true contempt for everyday Americans,” charged Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller. Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, whose job is primarily to legitimize Trump and his supporters, piled on at the Values Voter Summit in Washington DC. “The truth of the matter is that the men and women who support Donald Trump’s campaign are hardworking Americans- farmers, coal miners, teachers, veterans, members of our law enforcement community, members of every class in this country,” Pence huffed indignantly. “…they are not a basket of anything.” Of course, he and the Trump campaign failed to mention the element of Trump’s support which is in fact comprised of neo-Nazis, from the KKK’s David Duke straight on down to Trump’s army of white supremacist Twitter trolls. These people, the worst filth our society has to offer, did not support Bush, McCain, or Romney- at least not enthusiastically. But Donald Trump excites them with his hateful rhetoric and nativist policy proposals. So while a large majority of Trump’s supporters are not “deplorable” or “irredeemable,” a loud and significant percentage of them are. And the Trump campaign is not doing anyone a favor by pretending that’s not the case.

A simple fact check, however, can conclusively prove that Hillary’s claim that around 50% of Trump supporters are deplorable is not even close to accurate. A PPP exit poll of February’s Republican primary in South Carolina found that 10% of GOP voters there believe white people are superior to those of other races. 16% of Trump’s voters felt that way, far more than those of any other candidate. However, white supremacists still made up far less than half of Trump’s support base, even in a southern state with a history of racism. Now that Trump is the nominee and his base has expanded to include most Republicans and some independents, the percentage of Trump supporters who are racists, Islamaphobes and xenophobes is probably somewhere in the mid- to high-single digits. It’s certainly nowhere close to half. In addition, the Real Clear Politics polling average currently has Trump at around 44% support in a head-to-head matchup with Hillary. So with her vicious attack against Trump supporters, Hillary accused more than a fifth of the voting public of being deplorable human beings. Any American citizen knows that nothing could be farther from the truth.

In fact, Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comment is so ironic because it runs contrary to the entire message of Hillary’s campaign. If the central plank of Donald Trump’s campaign has been the belief that America is no longer great (as evidenced by his provocative slogan), the Democrats’ message this campaign has been that America remains great and that our Union is still strong. American greatness and prosperity were the main themes of the Democratic National Convention (other than that Trump is dangerous). The topic of American greatness has also played a prominent role in both campaigns this cycle, with Trump dwelling on everything he thinks is wrong with America and Hillary painting a much rosier picture. But how can everything be so rosy in America if more than one in five Americans is walking around hating everyone who is not exactly like them? There is no answer to this question, because the premise is wrong. Americans overwhelmingly are not haters. 22% of the voting public does not consist of white supremacists. Hillary is totally wrong on that account.

There is another thing Hillary said in that ill-conceived speech, however, which is much more accurate and is worthy of discussion. After her “deplorable” remark, Hillary continued by positing that “unfortunately, there are people like that and [Trump] has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.” Sadly, this statement is very true. Trump has retweeted material from actual neo-Nazi accounts, including tweets with images that contain swastikas and other anti-Semitic imagery. He has peddled in conspiracy theories, including those based in racist ignorance. He has mocked the disabled, repeatedly insulted various American minority communities, and has surrounded himself with “alt-right” thugs who have peddled in all sorts of racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism. His campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, ran one of the most overtly bigoted media outlets in the country. Trump has surrounded himself with stereotypical angry alt-conservatives, the crowd of racist xenophobes who believe lies invented by Breitbart and talk radio, like that members of ISIS are sneaking over our Southern border, joining the Obama administration and implementing Sharia law. Most Trump supporters don’t believe that stuff, but many of the people around Trump do. And that’s not a good sign regarding how the candidate himself might feel about these topics.

In summary, Hillary is wrong about Trump supporters. She owes nearly every Trump supporter an apology, because most Trump supporters are in fact good, hardworking people who are anxious about the future of the country they love. That fact is evident both with a look at the statistics and a look at those around us. The Trump supporters who are deplorable racists are not the Trump supporters I know. Do the deplorables exist? Yes. Are they loud? Yes. But they do not represent the bulk of Trump’s voters. What is more concerning- and what Hillary should focus on- is the bigoted element within Trump’s inner circle, because it is both more relevant and more present than the bigotry within the ranks of his voters.

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  1. What she did not do for the men in Benghazi was despicable. She bankrupted people in the White Water deal and intimidated the victims of her husband’s brutality. I would never call anyone who still wants to vote for her names.

  2. How in the world did we get into this situation? The real basket of deplorables contains our two presidential candidates! Deplorable, dishonest and downright disgusting!

  3. Politics 101- Never insult the voter. You would think that Clintons with all their political experience would know enough not to violate the basics. Some people just need top go back to class.

  4. After last night’s debate we can really see that the candidates are the deplorables. The unpresidential behavior exhibited,through insults, mutterings, name calling and insulting has really brought this campaign down to a new low. It is embarrassing that one of these two will have the privilege of calling themselves our leader.

  5. Excuse me, but maybe Hillary (and the author) should look at her inner circle a little better. Her Moslem, anti- Israel, borderline anti-America group is extremely troubling to anyone who is watching out for Israel’s interests. Her balancing act is almost always skewed.

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