During a fundraising event in New York City, Hillary Clinton proposed that Donald Trump supporters fall into two types of baskets. She stated first that, “To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”
She added, “And unfortunately, there are people like that and he 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 offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.”
The other half of Trump supporters, Clinton claimed, fit into a second basket of people who have “economic anxieties” and feel that Trump is most likely to improve their financial plight.
Clinton talked about this trend, this racist so-called “alt-right” (more commonly known as “white nationalism”) earlier in the campaign during a talk in Reno, Nevada. “He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.”
Though Clinton walked back her remarks somewhat the following day, claiming again that the number of “half” Trump’s followers being “racist” followers was, again, “grossly generalistic,” recent polls actually confirm her assertions.
For example, the new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that while not all Republicans are racist, racists tend more to be Republicans, and the most extremist among them are Donald Trump supporters.
According to the poll, Trump supporters are more likely to label African Americans as “criminal,” “unintelligent,” “lazy,” and “violent” than are Republicans who voted for other Republican candidates during the recent primaries or who support Hillary Clinton.
Of course not every Trump supporter expressed negative attitudes about black people in the survey. However, approximately 50% did rate black people adversely, relative to whites, on any of the six character traits in the poll.
Another research poll, the 2016 American National Election Study, conducted by Hamilton College political scientist Philip Klinkner, compared and contrasted feelings and attitudes toward Trump and Clinton. The study investigated how economic opinions, racial attitudes, and demographics affected participants’ feelings and opinions about these two presidential candidates.
Klinkner found that economic opinions or anxieties did not significantly determine individuals’ preferences for Trump, though racial attitudes did.
Said Klinkner, “My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes do little to explain support for Trump. Those who express more resentment toward African Americans, those who think the word ‘violent’ describes Muslims well, and those who believe President Obama is a Muslim have much more positive views of Trump compared with Clinton.”
The candidacy of Donald J. Trump has moved the ultra-right-wing of American politics to the center. Trump made this shift complete by elevating former executive chair of Breitbart News, Steven Bannon, to serve as his chief campaign executive. Not only does Breitbart flame fires of racism, but also anti-LGBT bigotry, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Jewish sentiments, and xenophobia. Here are just a few of the offensive story Breitbart headlines:
“Bill Kristal: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew”; “World Health Organization Report: Trannies 49 Xs Higher HIV Rate”; “There’s No Hiring Bias against Women in Tech, They Just Suck in Interviews”; “Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control’s Human Shield”; “Planned Parenthood’s Body Count under Cecile Richards Is Up to Half a Holocaust”; “Racist, Pro-Nazi Roots of Planned Parenthood Revealed”; “Would You Rather Your Daughter Have Feminism or Cancer?”
While some others in contention for the White House on the Republican side understood that their chances hinged on attracting a more diverse segment of the electorate in addition to older white people, Trump figuratively spit in the faces of minoritized “racial” groups, in particular Latinos and Latinas, during his off-scripted rambling announcement speech last summer:
“The US has become a dumping ground for everyone else’s problems,” he said. “[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and they’re rapists.”
Trump eventually enlarged his dehumanizing representations to include people throughout Latin America.
Donald Trump, arguably the more prominent of the so-called “birthers,” continually accused President Obama of illegitimacy as Commander in Chief by arguing that he was born outside the United States, even well after the President released his official birth certificate. This along with his supposed investigations into Mr. Obama’s time spent in Indonesia as a child, and inquiries into his African roots on his father’s side coexist as not-so-veiled xenophobic and racist threats.
Rather than characterizing immigration and migration issues as humanitarian concerns, the anti-immigration activists, and most primarily Donald Trump, connect the narratives representing immigrants and migrants to our borders to the language of disease, crime, drugs, alien and lower forms of culture and life, of invading hoards, of barbarians at the gates who if allowed to enter will destroy the glorious white European-heritage civilization we have established among the lesser nations of the Earth.
On a more basic and personal level, the rhetoric of invasion of our boarders taps into psychological fears, or more accurately, of terrors of infection: our country, our workplaces, and more basically, our private places in which “aliens” forcefully penetrate our personal spaces around our bodies, into our orifices, and down to the smallest cellular level.
Today, the Republican Party stands as a large white identity organization with little demographic diversity. If it does not alter its messaging and become the “large tent” it unrealistically purports to be, it will collapse under the strong winds of time.
So while Hillary Clinton stepped back from her initial characterization of Trump’s supporters by saying, “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half.’ That was wrong,” was this actually as “wrong” or inaccurate as she acknowledged?