THE GAFFE HEARD AROUND THE WORLD!! HILLARY'S "47%" MOMENT! AN INSULT TO HARDWORKING AMERICANS!!
That was the gist of the reaction to Hillary Clinton calling half of Donald Trump's supporters a "basket of deplorables" at a function last Friday. "How can you lead this nation if you think a good chunk of its citizens are unredeemable," went the refrain. It sure did look like Mrs. Clinton had stepped in it, and the media was having a frenzy about it.
A funny thing happened, though. The people whom Mrs. Clinton called "deplorable" went on and, well, proved to be deplorable.
Mr. Trump's running mate Mike Pence couldn't make himself call former KKK poobah David Duke "deplorable", saying he didn't "name-call".
Outside a Trump rally in North Carolina, a Trump supporter punched a 69-year old woman protesting Mr. Trump in the face. Oh, and that woman? She was on an oxygen tank.
And, of course, all it takes is a bit of Googling to find images of Trump supporters flying the Confederate flag, wearing shirts with the caption "Hang that bitch", expressing Islamophobia, homophobia, fear of immigrants, and so on. All pretty much textbook definitions of deplorable behavior.
This is an election like no other. We thought we'd seen the worst of the Right in 2008 and 2012. Those are halcyon days compared to what we have now. It's taken the near-completion of Barack Obama's two terms for the nativist, xenophobic, homophobic wing of the conservative movement to finally find its champion in Donald Trump. In Mr. Trump, we have a candidate who regularly retweets white nationalists. They see him as their entry into mainstream discourse. And Mr. Trump's constant gish-galloping has to a large degree normalized such speech. The media, never having been confronted by a man who lies as easily as he puts on a pair of pants—and repeats the lies even when contradicted by facts—has given up on giving him any close scrutiny. (There exceptions, of course, like David Farenthold of the Washington Post and Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek.)
The "deplorables" "gaffe" was no such thing. Mrs. Clinton knew exactly what she was doing. The initial outrage has disappeared in the face of evidence that yes, many Trump supporters are in fact deplorable.
The funny thing about America is that speaking about racism on a national platform is more offensive that the actual racism being addressed. Mrs. Clinton, having been around the block a few times, knew this. And she lobbed this gentle bomb into the political discourse. It was a bomb she knew would find its target, because any objective reading of the political landscape shows that a majority of Mr. Trump's support is from the racist wing of the Republican Party. All it took was a candidate with the courage to turn a light on that fact.
Here's the thing: If you support a candidate who wants to build a wall on our southern border, calls Mexican migrants "rapists", says that African-Americans in their totality are mired in violent dysfunction, and more or less wants to nuke every Muslim nation, then yes, you are deplorable. You are voting for a man who wants to upend everything that's decent and humane about this country. You are voting for a man who has a history of racism and misogyny. You are voting for a deplorable human being, which by association makes you deplorable. I really don't care about your hurt feelings on the matter. If you don't want to be in that basket, look into yourself and try to figure out why you support this man. Then make that titanic effort to change.
Hillary Clinton is a seasoned political fighter. Donald Trump is a moron. And Mr. Trump and his Republicans again walked into Mrs. Clinton's trap. As the Road Runner would say: meep meep.