Hillary’s ‘Deplorables’ Comment: Alienating Critical Independents

The plodding pol that Hillary is, her comment branding half of Donald Trump’s supporters as “deplorable” may have been a misspeak. But maybe not. It could have been typical liberal condescension, along the lines of Barack Obama’s 2008 rip at Middle Americans clinging to their guns and bibles. But maybe more.

Note the context. Hillary made her remarks at a fundraiser open to the media. Sure, she was throwing red meat to high-dollar contributors -- coastal elites -- who think as little of “flyover country” Americans as she does. It’s very likely, though, that with the media permitted, Hillary intended to offer up a specific message targeting some Democrats (Bern’s legions) and a lot of independents who appear to be deserting her. This is bad news for our inevitable first woman president.   

Chances are that Hillary strayed from the script; to wit, that Trump is a dangerous, gun-loving closeted Neo-Nazi, skinhead-sympathizing, white supremacist-backing, bare-knuckled rich cowboy who deserves to be banished to society’s margins (or back to reality TV). Instead, Hillary riffed that half of Trump’s growing constituency is the scum of the earth. That she didn’t call for reeducation camp justice for these reprobates means she wasn’t mentally agile enough to think of how to wrap the comment tightly enough into a sound bite.

Hillary has a long pedigree of asserting that there’s a “vast rightwing conspiracy” out to get Bubba and her. She’s long outstripped Dick Nixon’s paranoia. Note, too, that in her walk-back about tons of Trump supporters being deplorable, she refocused on Trump, repackaging the charge against him. This strongly suggests that’s what she was supposed to say from the get-go.

In campaign politics, there’s a cardinal rule (and there's not many of them) that you don’t attack your opponent’s supporters. It ranks just below attacking your opponent’s mother, wife, kids, and dog, but not by much. It only stirs the passions of the people you’re labeling as creeps. No candidate worth his or her salt wants to help mobilize the opposition.

Moreover, it may not sit well with the very independents you’re trying to woo. Plenty of average voters know a family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor who’s backing The Donald and know they aren’t double-secret KKK just itching to burn crosses on black people’s or Hispanics’ lawns. The charge isn’t credible and should bite Hillary hard where it hurts most: at ballot boxes in critical states this autumn.