Funny how people who flocked to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign because he “tells it like it is” or because he’s not politically correct got their tender feelings hurt because Hillary Clinton had the temerity to speak the truth.
Sure, it would have been better if the Democratic presidential nominee had not said “half of Trump’s supporters” belonged in a “basket of deplorables.” But after Trump’s 15-month rhetorical rampage of racism, xenophobia, misogyny and othering that helped win him the Republican presidential nomination, color me unmoved by all the breathless bleating from the right and bed-wetting from the left.
First, can we all just take a moment and put “basket of deplorables” into context. Here is what Clinton said in full:
I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think well he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment.
You know, to just 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. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he 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. Now some of those folks, they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
But the other basket, the other basket, and I know 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 who are people who feel that government has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they are 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 heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.
Clinton said she was being “grossly generalistic.” A caveat that keeps getting lost in the blanket coverage. She said “some of those folks” are “irredeemable.” A fact that keeps getting ignored in a vain effort to pretend that raw, unadulterated hate doesn’t exist in this country. And she went on to talk about the very real economic concerns of those Trump supporters who “don’t buy everything [Trump] says.”
If all of these things were pointed out or acknowledged in the criticisms of Clinton I wouldn’t have to give serious side-eyes to the nonsense I’ve listened to and read for the last three days. What’s truly deplorable is a presidential campaign with two different standards.
Clinton is being judged by the normal and rational standards by which we (should) judge presidential candidates. So “basket of deplorables,” her health, the work of the Clinton Foundation, her state department emails and questions about her transparency and trustworthiness are to expected and are fair.
The only problem with this standard is that it is not being applied to Trump by the media or the public. His irrational campaign defies the rational standards being applied to Clinton and lowers the bar on what is now acceptable for a candidate seeking to be the leader of the free world. And I think that’s because, on a certain level, many in the media and public view Trump’s candidacy as a long-running joke that must be taken somewhat seriously because he is the Republican nominee.
Thus, Trump’s “pivot” to teleprompters and fleeting discipline are greeted with an amazement usually reserved for a child’s first steps. Meanwhile, his philanthropic stinginess, his pay-for-play problem in Florida, his unwillingness to release his tax returns, his continued warm embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin don’t have as much power to shake up the campaign as Clinton’s cough.
Trump has said and done more than a basket of deplorable things, including hiring a campaign CEO who is a hero to the alt-right (read white supremacist) movement, that are disqualifying on their face. So forgive me if I don’t have the patience for some of these suddenly sensitive conservatives who can’t handle the truth.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj