Over the weekend — before the pneumonia story took over the news cycle — #Hillary Clinton made news for something completely different -- something that sounded like a gaffe but actually wasn’t one. In fact, it was somewhat brilliant politics.
Speaking at a fundraiser, and repeating a line that she’s stated in appearances before that “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.”
This was instantly denounced as a terrible gaffe, with Trump and his surrogates pouncing and declaring it a horrible thing to say. The news media, meanwhile, as they often do, denounced the “optics” of saying such a thing. It was even compared to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks in the 2012 campaign, which were widely seen to hurt the Republican candidate. (Clinton later apologized for using the word “half,” but stuck by the rest of the statement.)
Not a gaffe
There are two big reasons why the statement isn’t likely to hurt Hillary Clinton. One is that.. it’s obviously, clearly true. That there’s a major groundswell of open, proud bigotry behind Trump, something that’s new in American politics and very scary, and its existence is obvious to anyone who’s watched a Trump rally, opened Twitter, or has two eyes.
No candidate until Trump had open white nationalists as convention delegates, or retweeted such people. No candidate until Trump was the leader of the racist-to-the-core movement who questioned the birthplace and very American-ness of the current President of the United States. And no candidate until Trump had vowed mass deportations of undocumented immigrants or banning whole religions from the country. Trump’s support from avowed racists isn’t despite these things -- it’s because of them. And to deny that is to deny probably the most salient fact of this election.
And the second good thing about the statement is that it’s actually outstanding politics. If the argument in the coming weeks is over what percentage of Trump’s supporters are bigots, that’s an argument that only Hillary Clinton can win, whatever the actual number.
Not another "47 percent"
The comparison to Romney’s “47 percent” comment is also unfair. And that’s because Romney’s comment was not only politically damaging, but was factually wrong. Romney’s statement was based on the premise that the 47 percent of voters who don’t pay federal income taxes are all Democratic voters -- which is completely false. Many of the non-federal taxpayers were Republicans, some elderly retirees, others those who had used tax shelters, and still others who were simply low-income Republican voters. Clinton’s statement, at least, has the benefit of being true.
And finally, why the calls for Clinton to be nicer, and not say such mean things, about the people who call her every sexual slur in the book and regularly accuse her of murder? Never mind that Trump has made about 50 statements throughout the campaign that are nastier than “basket of deplorables.” #basketofdeploreables #Election 2016