Hillary Clinton’s elitist sneer at roughly a quarter of the American populace went much further than her instantly memorable “basket of deplorables” line. The full quote ran as follows:
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.
“Irredeemable?” That’s not a very Christian thing to say. Does she think radical Islamists who haven’t actually committed violent terrorism yet are “irredeemable?” What about radical Islamists who have carried out attacks? Rioters and looters? Come to think of it, Democrats are working hard on restoring voting rights to felons, so they seem to think a number of felony offenses are more redeemable than “offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric,” which is a rather elastic classification in liberal hands.
Before Clinton’s health crisis helpfully nudged her “basket of deplorables” comment off the front pages, her apologists were constructing a defense that what she said was no worse than Mitt Romney’s notorious “47 percent” discharge of a rhetorical pistol into his own foot, four years ago.
Clinton’s line about the people she disdains being irredeemable and “not America” gives the lie to that comparison, because Romney didn’t try to read the 47 Percent out of the American family, much less pronounce them beyond redemption.
Just like Clinton, Romney was speaking to a friendly audience at a fundraiser. This is the passage from his remarks that cause so much damage to his presidential campaign:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax…”[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
That excerpt comes from a 2013 Mother Jones piece that vehemently denies Romney any chance to put his remarks in context. Of course, Hillary Clinton is given endless benefit of the doubt for context with her little slip of the tongue.
In fact, her media was happy to disregard her actual words and invent less-malevolent interpretations for her, while she was busy dealing with her bout of dehydration – er, wait, make that pneumonia. They’ve actually been trying to help her turn the gaffe into an asset, by picking out targets and demanding Republicans pronounce them deplorable, to validate Clinton’s language. Indeed, that might have been the strategy behind Clinton’s “gaffe” all along.
It would have been very, very easy to validate Romney’s language with examples, but for some reason, the media wasn’t even slightly interested in doing that, and would have savagely attacked anyone who tried.
The media argued – during the event, and even more forcefully in retrospect – that the 47 Percent Gaffe hurt Romney so much because it played into preconceived notions about him as rich and out-of-touch, which were the very same notions the media worked hard to help the Obama campaign convey. Romney killed himself by confirming our stereotypes about him!
And yet, this is exactly the kind of analysis we are sternly instructed not to apply to Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” episode. Shame on you for thinking her comments to an adoring crowd of like-minded supporters reflects their deep loathing for the folks who were once described, by someone that crowd adores even more, as people who “get bitter” and “cling to guns, or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Well, what do you know – compare the full text of Obama’s “bitter clingers” comment from 2008 with Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” in 2016, and it turns out they’re saying essentially the same thing, about the same people… but don’t you dare suggest they both revealed something ugly lurking within the soul of the Democrat Party!
Let us agree that most people who thought Mitt Romney was talking about them would have found his description of them insulting. But he didn’t label them irredeemable or un-American; he offered a political analysis that they wouldn’t vote for him, and it was a waste of his energy to try winning their support. At the time, some of his philosophical critics on the Right faulted him for writing anyone off, while practical-minded critics clucked that it was a huge mistake to say so out loud.
Most conservatives who subscribe to the notion that people who depend on government subsidies cannot be persuaded to vote for smaller government, or that people who pay little or no direct tax don’t have “skin in the game” when it comes to balanced budgets or a lighter tax burden, don’t hate the voters they cannot reach.
They are mournful that so many people have been made dependent on government, and they tend to believe those people have been tricked by the Left, because we are rapidly approaching the point where cradle-to-grave welfare systems are unsustainable.
Most critics of the welfare establishment think people would rather work than be on the dole, and rail against perverse incentives that make it financially unwise to take a job. Rhetorically, most on the Left agree with the notion that welfare dependents are eager to work… but in practice, they’re deeply wedded to the idea that only upper-class Americans can thrive and prosper without massive government assistance.
Hillary Clinton said as much, right after she dumped her “basket of undesirables” stinker, in comments that haven’t gotten much attention:
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 heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.
She was acknowledging that Donald Trump tapped into a sense of disappointment and alienation among a significant portion of voters… and she thinks what they’re disappointed about is that government isn’t big enough. The welfare state vending machine is politically jammed, and it’s not dispensing enough goodies to them.
And, for the record, she’s dead wrong about those folks feeling neglected. No, they feel like they’re under attack by people like Hillary Clinton, armed with the compulsive power of the almighty central government. They’re very much aware of those big Clinton Foundation donors and Obama cronies making out like bandits while the rest of the economy limps through low-growth doldrums.
They know Clinton and her fellow travelers view them as irredeemable, deplorable enemies to be subdued. On a good day, the Left tells itself the deplorables must be defeated and controlled for their own good, frog-marching them into a better society, but such good days come with decreasing frequency. The more powerful the State becomes, the more its acolytes need to think of the designated losers in their centrally-planned schemes as wretched creatures who deserve what’s coming to them.