J.D. Vance, a very hot writer these days with his timely memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” writes in Thursday’s New York Times why he thinks Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” remark was out of line: Because polls show that most everyone, not just Trump voters, have some sort of prejudice toward one group and/or other, and though the prejudice is terrible, it shouldn’t brand them as “social outcasts.”
“In that basket is the black preacher who may view homosexuality as a little icky even as he lovingly ministers to struggling gay members of his church. The adoptive parent of a child born in Asia, who pours her heart and soul into her child’s well-being even as she tells a pollster that she doesn’t much care about America’s experience with Japanese internment. And in that basket is a white grandmother who speaks ill of black people even as she gives her beloved African-American grandson the emotional support and love that enable him to become the president of all Americans.”
Yes, we all have our prejudices, and that does not make us all deplorable. But we are not all prejudiced to the same degree, and the difference in quantity can and does become so great among people that it turns into a difference in quality. Some people are prejudiced in a way that’s recessive and basically harmless, others in a way that’s malignant, such that it’s entirely fair to call them deplorable as people.
And I’d say one indication of whether a person is garden-variety, routinely prejudiced or, on the other hand, poisoned with it, is whether he supports Trump. (While it’s not true, as Hillary pointed out, that all of Trump’s voters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it,” I would say that about 90% of the “you name its” who are voting in this election are voting Trump.)
It’s one thing to say America needs to reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico and Latin America, or to more closely vet the refugees and immigrants from the Muslim Middle East. Believing such things (as I do) does not make you a racist, nativist or Islamophobe.
But when a candidate only speaks of Latinos and Muslims as rapists, murderers, terrorists, leeches, aliens, as nothing but a collective menace, and shouts it with maximum fury and malevolence – if you are one of the people in the crowd baying in response, you are fucking well deplorable. You’re not one of the “about 90 percent of us [who] possess some implicit prejudices,” according to J.D. Vance’s data-based estimate. No, you’re one of the roughly 20 percent of Americans (extrapolating from Hillary’s reference to “half” of Trump’s supporters) who are out-and-out bigots.
And even if you haven’t been to any of Trump’s rallies, if you support him knowing (as you damn well do by now) his views toward Muslims, Latinos, women, blacks and the handicapped, and your socioeconomic situation is good enough so you’re not clinging to him out of personal desperation (and desperate people probably make up a smaller portion of Trump’s electorate than the “half” suggested by Hillary; see links below) – then on the slim chance that you are not an out-and-out bigot yourself, you are raising one up to take over America, which is enough to make you deplorable.
No apologies, Hillary. No defending the indefensibles, J.D.
“When it comes to baskets, we’re all deplorable,” J.D. Vance, NY Times, September 22, 2016.
“Voices from Donald Trump’s rallies, uncensored,” NY Times, August 3, 2016.
“Clinton expresses regret for saying ‘half’ of Trump’s supporters are ‘deplorables,” CNN, September 12, 2016.
“The mythology of Trump’s ‘working class’ support,” Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight, May 3, 2016.
“Typical Trump voter earns above average income, study finds,” NBC News, August 13, 2016.