Our census of the condemned: We've had a wide array of reactions to Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment.
(The deplorables are also "irredeemable." You probably already knew that.)
Our reactions have taken us to Yevtushenko and to Dr. King. We've marveled at the ardor, and the lack of intellectual skill, we humans bring to the task of convincing ourselves that The Others, the ones Over There, are morally irredeemable while We, the fine folk Over Here, are morally good and pure.
"No people are uninteresting," Yevtushenko said. "Not people die but worlds die in them. Whom we knew as faulty, the earth’s creatures..."
In Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King described his deep investment in the refusal to hate. He also wrote a fascinating passage about his refusal to hate the Montgomery city fathers who, he thought, had helped create the climate which led to the bombing of his home.
Presumably, the impulse to think the worst about Others is bred deep in the bone. Presumably, this instinct to think the worst was once a survival skill. It would have been selected for in the war of the all against all.
Today, the desire to think the worst about Others strikes us as deeply unhelpful. In a general way, we tend to agree with this part of today's New York Times editorial:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (9/14/16): ...Hillary Clinton, speaking at a fund-raiser on Wall Street, deposited “half of Trump’s supporters” into what she rather bizarrely called “the basket of deplorables.” The donors—the adorables?—had a good chuckle.The editors didn't attempt to describe the type of damage which was done by Clinton's "rather bizarre" remark. Perhaps they meant political damage. Perhaps they meant damage to the soul.
Mrs. Clinton went on to point out that there are other Trump supporters “we have to understand and empathize with,” people who are “just desperate for change.” And she later expressed regret for her remarks. But real damage had been done. In wooing one group of voters—in reading some members of her elite audience, and reflecting their feelings back to them, and perhaps revealing her own—she had written off another one as “irredeemable.”
As Hemingway once did, the editors blamed the incident on The Rich. "This is what happens when candidates spend so much time in what F. Scott Fitzgerald called 'the consoling proximity of millionaires,' " they said in their editorial.
We don't know why they said that. In the end, Hillary Clinton was simply saying what many tribe members think. This includes some of the lifelong friends who we admire most.
There's no way to know what the politics of this incident will be. It may turn out that the incident has no particular political effect.
That said, we think the remark, and liberal reaction to same, display the impulse toward loathing we've long warned against. Perhaps more strikingly, we think the reactions of tribal sachems—Coates, Hayes, Milbank and Blow, among others—have displayed the lack of intellectual skill we bring to such debates.
Clinton started her remarks that night by saying she didn't want to be "grossly generalistic." She then proceeded to make exactly that kind of remark.
In fairness, she only condemned half The Others to Hell. More typically, liberal pundits have been suggesting that everyone is "irredeemable" in the vile group Over There.
As we've long said, we think the impulse to see things this way is destructive to liberal values and to progressive possibilities. But good lord! How hard we've worked in our attempts to prove that Clinton's remark was accurate! In the process, it's sad to see what our sachems have revealed about our own tribe's basket of skills.
In the next day or two, we'll take a look at some of the ways our tribal leaders have struggled to show that Clinton's remark was factually accurate. It's easy to show that she was right, Ta-Nehisi Coates even said.
In our view, we're a badly floundering tribe. But then, how do we think we got ourselves into this mess in the first place?
We'll quickly say it's all their fault. We don't think that view is right.
Tomorrow: Where to begin?