The media isn’t saying much about the most aggressive phrase in Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” speech — her claim that many Americans are “irredeemable.”
“You could put half of [Donald] Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘Basket of Deplorables’ … some of those folks, they are irredeemable,” she said Sept. 9 to a laughing audience of supporters.
“Irredeemable” is a religious term, and it describes people who have died and been condemned by God to hell forever, without any hope of redemption or a return to society, said Paul Kengor, a biographer of Hillary Clinton and a professor at Grove City College, in Pennsylvania.
In secular terms, “irredeemable” is best understood as a “death penally, not just a political death penalty, but also a social death penalty” that exiles targeted people permanently outside the pale of civilization, Kengor says. His 2007 biography of Clinton is “God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life.”
In American politics, that’s an unprecedented claim, which leaves Clinton vulnerable.
“She has called herself many times an ‘Old Fashioned Methodist,’ so she ought to know that word usually has a religious content,” Kengor said. “Religious-left Christians can be Hellfire and Brimstone, and be the most [unforgiving] judgmental people on the planet,” he said, adding “that’s what we’re seeing.”
Trump is highlighting Clinton’s unprecedented rejection of her fellow Americans.
“While her campaign slanders you as ‘deplorables’ and ‘irredeemables,’ I call you hard-working Americans patriots that love your country and want a better future for all our people,” Trump declared at a North Carolina rally on Sept. 12. “You are everybody. Above all else, you’re Americans and you’re entitled to leadership that honors you, cherishes, you and totally defends you.”
Left-wing journalists have rushed to defend Clinton’s claim that her opponents are “bigots” — despite much evidence that the vast majority are mainstream, welcoming to many immigrants, concerned about lower-income Americans, and seek to conserve constitutional values — but they have ignored her radically divisive claim that many Americans are irredeemably beyond the limits of civil society.
“Hillary Clinton gave her view of Donald Trump’s supporters and caused a scandal by telling the truth,” said Jamelle Bouie at Slate.com. He too ignored the civic segregation of “irredeemable.”
Ta-Nehisi Coats at TheAtlantic.com seemed to agree with Clinton’s vision of political apartheid, titling his article as “Hillary Clinton Was Politically Incorrect, but She Wasn’t Wrong About Trump’s Supporters.”
Phillip Bump at The Washington Post downgraded the dispute to a calculation of votes lost or gained. When asked to address the “irredeemable” exclusion, Bump crudely echoed Clinton’s contempt for many Americans with a one-word response, “Lol.”
ABC wrote up an article about her peculiar word-choice — “basket of deplorables” — but ignored the far more aggressive “irredeemable” description.
Clinton is a Methodist, and she knows that “everybody is within the mercy and forgiveness of God, and so she’s making, intentionally or not, what sounded like a religious condemnation, a literal judgmental statement,” said Kengor.
“Who is Hillary Clinton to say someone irredeemable? Jesus Christ didn’t even say it,” Kengor added.
When the Catholic Church criticized communists during the Cold War, it described them as “Satanic and poisonous” but not irredeemable, Kengor said. “In Christianity, everybody who is alive and walking on the planet can be redeemed,” he said.
Symbolically, getting exiled as a “irredeemable” is “worse than being exiled to Siberia [by the Soviet government] because you have the hope some day of being let out of Siberia … even in Siberia, hope didn’t die,” he said.
In September 2001, just after the 9/11 atrocity, Kengor said, George W. Bush was excoriated by Democrats for his hard-edged statement, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Liberals complained “‘How dare he use that kind of biblical language’ — but this is what Hillary is doing here,” he said.
But while Bush’s “with us” phrase assumed that enemies are human enough to choose to sides, Clinton’s “irredeemable” word denies that her political enemies have the human power of choice, he added. Bush “would never use ‘irredeemable’ … [because, for Christians] you can be a evildoer – and still repent and be redeemed,” Kengor said.
Here’s Clinton’s full Sept. 9 statement at her fundraiser with gay supporters;
“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.
She had used secular language of permanent exclusion during a prior interview on Israeli TV.
There are what I call the deplorables — the racists, you know, the haters, and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he’s going to restore an America that no longer exists. So just eliminate them from your thinking, because we’ve always had an annoying prejudicial element within our politics.
In both interviews, she also portrayed many Americans as mentally ill — as afflicted with irrational phobias or political fantasies — and who are thus outside the bounds of rational society.
“Homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic,” she said at the gay fundraiser. “Haters, and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he’s going to restore an America that no longer exists,” she said on Israeli TV.
Some liberals seem to fully agree with Clinton’s judgement.
“Some say that it’s wrong to write off all Trump supporters as irredeemably “deplorable” and that that doing so is a symptom of crass partisanship,” wrote Jamie Kirchik.
But by any objective measure, Trump is not a usual candidate. He is the most openly bigoted, unqualified and mentally unfit person to run for the presidency in the history of the United States…. is pertains to Trump, for whom support in any way, shape or form, is simply indefensible. If supporting a racist, authoritarian, Vladimir Putin-loving ignoramus is not “deplorable,” what is?
Clinton’s unprecedented use of the “irredeemable” term, said Kengor, “is not getting the attention that it should, maybe because in part, secular liberalism doesn’t really understand religious language … [irredeemable] is really worse than the word ‘deplorable.’”
“Everybody is within the mercy and forgiveness of God, and and she’s making — intentionally or not, what sounded like a religious condemnation, a literal judgmental statement… it really should get more attention than the ‘deplorable’ statements,” Kengor said.