Why Isn’t Anyone Paying Attention to Clinton’s Other Basket?

The right wing and much of the press are all aflutter today over Clinton’s statement at a fundraiser that half of Trump’s supporters are in a “basket of deplorables” driven by bigotries of all kinds.

Honestly, though–how is that even controversial at this point? Clinton herself already signaled that she believed exactly that when she gave her speech about Trump and the rise of the alt right. Did people think she was only referring to a tiny slice of them? Has anyone been paying attention to commentary from Romney-style Republicans about how they’ve allowed a racist, xenophobic movement to take over their party?

Clinton is being faulted here for telling the truth about whom Trump speaks for and represents. The data shows that Clinton is right about a large portion of not only Trump supporters but Republicans generally. Attacking her for telling the blunt truth about it is frankly a form of right-wing political correctness. Isn’t that what political correctness supposedly is–that we’re all supposed to stay silent about what everyone knows? Everyone knows what drives a huge faction of Trump supporters. 44% of Americans in a recent poll thought Trump was a racist. It’s obvious on its face. Anyone who is actually insulted by that wasn’t ever going to vote for Clinton in the first place. Frank Luntz is saying that this is Clinton’s “47 percent” moment, but I find that difficult to believe.

What’s receiving less attention than it ought to is what Clinton said afterward, which is one of the frankest acknowledgments from Clinton of what is actually going on among the more reasonable Trump voters I’ve seen yet:

“The other basket, and I know because I look at this crowd, I see friends from all over America here…But that other basket of people are people who feel that government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures,” she said. “They are just desperate for change. Doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope their lives will be different.”

That is a profound truth, and it’s one I’ve been writing about for a long time. Much of the left doesn’t want to acknowledge it, but there is a giant swath of voters who now belong to the Smash Everything Coalition, willing to try almost anything to shake up what they see as a completely unresponsive political and economic system. These are the people that David Brooks sees and unrealistically hopes for as part of a future GOP realignment.

It’s a good sign that Clinton is showing an understanding of this and why they’re voting for him. It bodes well for her trying to help them economically in a potential Clinton Administration, instead of dismissing them as hopeless bigots who can never be reached.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.