Last week, the presidential race staggered and stumbled into what might be described as the 10th or 11th round of a grueling political cage fight.
First, Hilary Clinton appeared to suffer a self-inflicted injury when she suggested that 23 percent of American voters were in the basket of “deplorables.”
While technically she only claimed that “half” of Trump’s supporters were basket cases, it was still unusual and uncomfortable when Hilary, perceived by many as the white-hat candidate, resorted to the insult brand of name-calling consistently favored by Mr. Angry Orange.
Clinton went on to rant and rally her own supporters against Drumpf and his “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it” followers, adding, “he tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”
Later, after stumbling (literally) at the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York City, Clinton disclosed that she was diagnosed with pneumonia days before, a fact that might have contributed to the feverish rhetoric that made the phrase “Basket of Deplorables” instantly iconic.
Was Hillary Clinton unfair in her assessment of a segment of voters/citizens, or was she too honest?
I say both.
It was a reckless and dumb generalization to quantify something as vague and subjective as the deplorable population. Beyond that it was more than a bit dark to label this same group as “irredeemable,” which is to suggest that prejudice in general, and every ugly form of “ic” and “ist” is a permanent condition from which people can’t grow and evolve.
We know differently as Americans.
Our ability to grow as individuals, evolve as a fundamentally kind society, and put our innate and shared sense of humanity before the primal impulses of hate, are unique and vital attributes we should all cherish, especially someone seeking the presidency.
As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
But while Clinton was wrong in her vague political math, and dangerously wrong about the human capacity for change, evolution and redemption, she was fair and correct in her criticism of some people for their deplorable acts – many directly and indirectly associated with the Trump campaign and his fear-baiting, hate-fueled, distortion-filled, fact-free, ego-inflated and dangerous romp through our political system.
But, who are these “deplorables” and how many do we have here in Maine? Are there any in your office? How many live on your street?
If according to Clinton, “half” of Drumpf’s supporters are in the deplorable basket, then Maine has approximately 146,000 of them, or about half of the people who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. That seems like a lot.
I would never label anyone with a different political view as deplorable. I happen to be a fan and believer in science, so if you actively dismiss and deny climate change as a real and very serious threat to civilization, then you’re not deplorable, just wrong. Very, very wrong.
Likewise, I’m fine with the Second Amendment and all 27 words. But since it was adopted in 1791, a lot has changed, and as an “amendment” maybe we should amend it a bit to reflect today’s reality – one that doesn’t involve or require a “well regulated militia.”
Personally, I’d like to see tighter controls on high-capacity military-style weapons, high-round magazines and a reasonable and reliable owner identification program. If you don’t think anything should change or evolve about gun laws, then you’re not deplorable, just really, really, myopic and unreasonable.
Finally, if you’re a Donald Trump supporter and you believe that he is competent to function for four years as the leader of the free world and that he has the skill-set and needed temperament to lead our government, then you and I greatly disagree. It doesn’t mean that you’re one of the deplorables, but it does mean we see Trump and the presidency through different lenses.
How about the question about which of the major candidates are more “qualified” for the presidency?
Clinton’s qualifications to be our next president include her law school and legal background, with its emphasis on the plight of children and families; experience as first lady of Arkansas and the U.S.; her election to the U.S. Senate, and her service as secretary of state, where she brokered peace treaties and trade agreements. She has governed with strength and compassion.
Trump’s qualifications to become president? He’s “really, really, really rich;” he’s built things like buildings and golf courses, and he starred in a successful reality TV show. He has never held any elected office, so he has no notion of how government at any level actually functions, and he has no meaningful history of civic involvement, humanitarian engagement or charity leadership – which has allowed him to focus on becoming “really, really, rich.”
Clinton may be an imperfect candidate for several reasons, but it scares me that anyone could compare the actual qualifications of our two major presidential candidates and not conclude, without a moment of doubt, that one person is the most experienced and qualified presidential candidate in our history, and the other the very least.
To disagree with that truth isn’t a partisan position, it’s a deplorable act of denial that has the potential to harm our collective futures here in the U.S. and around the world.
Hillary got it wrong with her basket metaphor, but I’m with her on the core message: please don’t be deplorable.
Steve Woods is from away, but fully here now, living in Yarmouth, working in Falmouth, traveling the world, and trying his best. His column appears every other week. He can also be heard each Saturday at 11 a.m. on WLOB 1310 AM and 100.5 FM.