New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait doubles down on Hillary Clinton’s assertion that “half” of Donald Trump’s supporters are an “irredeemable” “basket of deplorables” who are, in her words, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” Chait, however, writes that Clinton’s allegation describes “most,” not just “half,” of Trump’s supporters.
Following the classic definition of a gaffe as a politician telling the truth, Hillary Clinton’s comment about Donald Trump’s supporters (“just to 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”) was the purest and most classic example. The national media has spent a year and a quarter documenting in exquisite, redundant detail the rabid, anti-intellectual nationalistic bigotry of Trump’s hard-core fanbase. But it has taken Hillary Clinton’s affirmation to transform this by-now-banal observation into a scandal.
To the extent that Clinton’s comment had any novel quality, it was her loose calculation that the bigoted make up half of Trump’s support. Clinton has dutifully apologized (“I regret saying half”). And, depending on how one calculates it, this could be high. Committed white nationalists comprise a small minority of the Trump vote. On the other hand, it could also be low.
The overwhelming majority of Trump aficionados support his proposed ban on Muslim immigrants — a policy many Republican elected officials opposed as an unconstitutional religious test — while two-thirds of them register unfavorable views of American Muslims. A plurality of Republicans supported Trump’s claim that a Mexican-American judge was inherently biased and therefore unfit to preside over his fraud trial. (In the same poll, a huge majority of Republicans deemed Trump’s comments not racist, despite Paul Ryan’s admission that it constituted a textbook example of racism.) Two-thirds of voters who like Trump consider President Obama a Muslim, and three-fifths of them believe he was not born in the United States.
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