Clinton was right: Trump HAS lifted up the deplorable

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Issac Bailey: It's important for Clinton to speak clearly about dangers Trump has unleashed

Bailey: Most foul-thinking of Trump supporters ARE America, but they are NOT irredeemable

Editor’s Note: Issac Bailey has been a journalist in South Carolina for two decades and was most recently the primary columnist for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman fellow. Follow him on Twitter: @ijbailey. The views expressed are his own.

CNN —  

It is deplorable to undermine the credibility of a federal judge based on his Mexican heritage.

It is deplorable to demean a Gold Star family and propose to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

It is deplorable for a candidate for president of a major party to kick off his campaign by labeling most Mexicans as rapists and murderers.

It is deplorable when the Justice Department feels it has to sue you a second time for racial discrimination because you didn’t get the hint the first time.

Issac Bailey

It is deplorable to play footsie with David Duke, to repeatedly retweet white nationalists and false stats about black men and crime, to praise the enthusiasm of supporters who beat a homeless Hispanic man in Boston and punch a black man at rally, to say black people have a lazy trait and have them ushered off the casino floor when you show up.

It is deplorable to rise to national political prominence on the bigotry that is “birtherism,” even more deplorable to have neither the character nor the courage either publicly to renounce or repeat that assertion while touting your supposed toughness as a primary reason to vote for you.

It is deplorable that the list of deplorable things done and said by the Republican nominee for president is so long it’s hard and exhausting to try to remember them all.

It is deplorable that a sizable percentage of his supporters love him because of those awful things – deplorable that they now feel it is OK to express those views in public. That is not excusable – no matter how much economic pain they’ve contended with these past few decades.

But what’s most deplorable is the knee-jerk pushback against anyone who dares point out this reality, as though exposing the deplorable is worse than the deplorable things themselves. Maybe the best way to avoid being labeled deplorable is to stop doing and saying and standing for deplorable things?

The public has struggled as it has grappled with Donald Trump’s new brand of bigotry, the promotion of a kind of hate that until now had existed at the far margins of politics and was censured by all decent people when it crept into the public discourse.

Against this backdrop, now there is a flare-up because Hillary Clinton on Friday made the mistake of reminding people about Trump’s track record and why he was able to garner more support than 16 more qualified Republican candidates.

02:30 - Source: CNN
Clinton: Half of Trump supporters 'deplorables'

(Never mind that earlier the same day, the “alt-right” that Trump has helped usher into the mainstream was busy detailing reasons why some races are superior to others and that Jews can’t be trusted.)

To get a sense of the overwrought outrage over Clinton’s comments, you need to read them in full context:

“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,” Clinton told a crowd at a fund-raiser Friday night.

Surely no right-thinking American disagrees that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamophobia are, indeed, deplorable.

“(Trump) 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 their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America,” Clinton said.

Trump has lifted them up. He has given them voice. There’s a reason Duke and white nationalists are so giddy about the prospect of a “President Trump.” No one who has followed this campaign in any serious way can dispute that reality.

The only debate seems to be what percentage of Trump’s followers are animated by his bigotry. Fifty percent like Clinton said Friday? (She has since expressed regret for saying “half.”) Ten percent? Twenty? The roughly 40% of Republicans who chose Trump against 16 other candidates while the primaries were still competitive?

Or maybe the nearly three-quarters of Republicans who either don’t believe or doubt President Barack Obama was actually born in America, a figure that is so high in large part because of the efforts of Trump that go back to at least 2011?

It is important for Clinton – and others – to speak clearly about the danger posed by the ugliness unleashed by Trump, because no matter what happens in November, we all will have to deal with the fallout. Not to do so would be to become party to the mainstreaming of bigotry.

That’s where I’ll caution Clinton and her supporters. The most foulmouthed, foul-thinking Trump supporters are America but are not irredeemable. A complex set of factors that can’t be fully captured by a poll leads to people’s embrace of bigotry and homophobia and sexism.

The economic picture unveiled by the US Census Bureau on Tuesday, coupled with a gaggle of data points we already had, should put to rest the idea that the anger on display in much of America is about economic angst and a feeling that the US has stepped away from the social mores that made the country great.