2016-09-12 – Over the weekend Hillary Clinton committed something that the media calls a “gaffe.” I don’t think it was a gaffe at all—except in the way it was reported. Not only do I think that Clinton’s statement is perceptive, it is actually supportive of the people she is supposed to have offended. Maybe that’s why Trump was quick to recharacterize her statement as an insult to his supporters. It isn’t. But the media totally bought that line of thinking.
Before I get into why I think that, let’s look at the actual statement:
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 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.
But the other basket — and I know this 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 are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re 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.
What do you think?
Remember, Hillary was talking to her donors. These are the kind of people who don’t have to be convinced that Trump supporters are somehow defective. They believe this wholeheartedly. In fact, they believe this too wholeheartedly. I’ve been writing about this for some time. Many liberals look down their noses at the white working class.
And here comes Hillary who says: okay, many of Trump’s supporters are like what you say (half). But they are not all like that. Many “feel that government has let them down . . . Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”
So far from dissing Trumps supporters, Hillary is arguing the importance of listening to their concerns. And she says why: “the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures . . .” Doesn’t this turn the media narrative on its head?
So why did she say “half”?
As she herself said, she shouldn’t have said “half.” But I don’t read “half” as being a precise 50% in this context (or 47%, as some in the media have put it). I read “half” as indicative that she is talking about two types of people. That’s how we speak colloquially. If you’re not parsing her speech with the purpose of tearing her down, you would get that.
But she’s a politician. She should know that people don’t listen to her words so much as comb them for gaffes. Even if the gaffe theory is entirely contrary to the meaning of the whole speech.
I hope Hillary continues in her effort to be inclusive of the non-racist “half” of Trump’s supporters. After all, we’re stronger together.
If you want a statistical analysis, here’s what Charles M. Blow from the New York Times has to say about the speech.