Monday, September 12, 2016

Basket of Deplorables

"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, Islamaphobic -- 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 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks -- they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America."
--Hillary Clinton at a public fundraiser on September 9, 2016

It's such a rich, un-Hillarylike phrase, surely to be remembered and repeated among the great election moments ("lipstick," "47%," "you're likable enough," "potatoe").
It is, of course, bad politics. It highlights why Hillary is such a weak candidate. In the hands of a better politician, the criticisms would have been targeted at Trump, not his voters. Anytime a politician goes after voters, she's losing. But a half turn and it's a biting critique. "Donald Trump has made his campaign a safe haven for racism, homophobia, islamophibia. He appeals to people's base instincts, always looking to divide rather than unite." Etc. Elections are long, though, and sometimes politicians say things that are, um, politically incorrect. (Funny how Trump didn't celebrate her for that.)

But I am also drawn to it because "basket of deplorables" is such a musical turn of phrase. She evokes a mental image with basket, then gives it a piquant little twist by nounifying the adjective. Deplorable is mildly comic, and a "deplorable" more so. I image grumbling heads crowded in a basket.

It demonstrates the distance we've come in eight years since Obama's "cling to guns" comment, which was so much softer (and said privately). Hillary made a baldly Trumpian comment--but one phrased a way Trump could never approach. For the Donald, people are "horrible," "losers." His idiom is a 10-year-old's. Hillary used a Trumpian tone, but a far different, and more erudite, kind of attack.

Of course, Hillary is held to a different standard, one that allows people to resort, hanky in hand, to their feinting couches. We've never heard such things! (Except since yesterday and every previous day, and far worse, from Trump.) (Or: from a *lady.*) The blowback will reverberate through the election--and after, if she wins. And she won't even get the props from the left, who would have loved Obama or Bernie to take a roundhouse like this.
Still, it was quite a moment.

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