Now, before the 100-percent-proof progressives – who consider the former first lady and failed presidential candidate the “devil in a designer pantsuit” – have a fit of apoplexy or crucify yours truly for being an apostate, let me explain what I am convinced Hillary Clinton was right about and why.
Still, I am obliged to remind readers that in opinion columns for Al Jazeera and elsewhere, my antipathy for Clinton’s regressive credentials at home and signature support for America’s inhumane and calamitous “shock and awe” adventures abroad is plain.
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But I am also obliged to give credit when and where credit is due.
You may recall during a dinner in 2016 to raise money for her bid to become president, Clinton made some uncharitable remarks about many, not all, of President Donald Trump’s supporters and, by implication, her opponent.
Clinton shared with her well-heeled admirers a blunt, stinging precis on the essential character of not only Trump, but the people who attended his “rallies” that pulsated with incendiary anger and indecency.
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
That is not all Clinton said.
“[Trump] tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”
Clinton was right on every count. Trump, his followers and enablers inside and outside Congress are indeed an “irredeemable” “basket of deplorables” and, since his election in 2016, they have confirmed, time and again, every wretched quality she ascribed to them in her scathing address.
It would be an exercise in redundancy to describe or tally the familiar litany of appalling acts committed by Trump and his vulgar allies. The evidence of their irredeemably deplorable behaviour is, today, glaring and overwhelming.
Yet, at the time, Clinton’s caustic comments were condemned as a politically unwise and irresponsible ad hominem attack on Americans she claimed to want to lead as commander-in-chief.
I believed then, as I do now, that Clinton’s surprising candour – however fleeting or novel – was refreshing and laudable. As an adjunct to this, I found Clinton’s critics hypocritical in their condescending reproach of her remarks and too genteel to tell the blatant truth about the sinister Make-America-Great-Again, baseball-cap-wearing crowd.
Rather, the all-knowing-all-the-time pundits scolded Clinton for being a stiff, calculating candidate who lacked authenticity and spontaneity.
Clinton’s speech may have had a calculating tint, but it was, arguably, the most authentic moment of her campaign. It is memorable precisely because it was a remarkable and unexpected departure of form. (Reportedly, she had previously road-tested the “deplorables” line in an interview with an Israeli news station.)
In that moment, before that audience, Clinton opted to say out loud what many other politicians were hesitant to say out loud to avoid alienating Trump’s “base” in a futile and ludicrous bid to win their favour. Clearly, Clinton did not share their equivocations or reservations. Bully for her. (Joe Biden acknowledged recently that 10-15 percent of Americans “are just not very good people”. I think he was being conservative.)
Turns out, Clinton was as prescient as she was right.
These days, it is fashionable for previously circumspect writers to finally and enthusiastically invoke Clinton’s once verboten language in columns that explore what attracts and binds Trumpsters to Trump.
More learned scribes turn to the incisive tomes of renowned psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung to try to analyse the pathology that defines Trump and the evangelical loyalty he inspires.
“They feel caricaturized and vilified, and in many ways, they are and have been for decades now,” one repentant, ex-“I hate Trump voters” columnist explained. “These people are frightened, frustrated, and suffering.”
Here is, I suppose, my unembroidered, insensitive reply: Just as sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, a deplorable Trumpster can sometimes just be deplorable.
By any sentient measure, it is deplorable to not only traffic in a cesspool of conspiracy theories about the origins a still raging pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 120,000 Americans, but to declare the virus a “hoax” orchestrated by scientists intent on depriving deplorables of a haircut.
By any sentient measure, it is deplorable to carry big, loaded automatic weapons into statehouses and claim, often incoherently, that an overt act of intimidation is somehow a reflection of the “freedoms” enshrined in the US constitution.
By any sentient measure, it is deplorable to tar, often incoherently, millions of Americans demanding an end to police brutality and ingrained, systemic racism as “terrorists” or “wild animals” who need to be “put down”.
By any sentient measure, it is deplorable to insist that yet another murder of yet another Black man by police warrants the US president and his complicit accomplices to threaten to deploy the military to shoot Americans protesting against George Floyd’s murder.
I could go on and on and on, but I expect you get the deplorable point.
There are, predictably, progressives who refuse to call a deplorable spade a deplorable spade. Instead, they cling to the absurd.
“What’s with those US protesters? The ones out to end the lockdown so they can return to work and get fatally infected. Crazy? That’s not very empathetic. The best explanation I’ve heard is, they’re people who’ve been lied to by experts for 40 years about what’s good for them, like free trade or privatization (as in senior care), and it was all dishonest verbal garbage that destroyed jobs and communities,” another columnist recently wrote.
The paragraph’s logic, such as it is, escapes me. To suggest that repudiating epidemiologists’ advice to wear a mask and social distance somehow reflects a mass epiphany by the deplorables that “experts” have habitually lied “about what’s good for them” is a laughable affront to reality.
I cannot recall a deplorable ever saying: “I refuse to wear a mask to protect me and others from a hoax virus because all those experts lied to me about free trade and privatization.” Can you?
I am through attempting to understand or tolerate any sympathy, from any quarter, for a deplorable clan who plan to vote for a deplorable clan leader this coming November.
If that makes Trump’s rabid deplorables call me deplorable – well, so be it.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.