Part 3—Hillary Clinton's admission: Some of the questions which get asked in our ubiquitous surveys and polls are extremely straightforward. One such question is this:
"If the election were held today, which candidate would you vote for?"
That question is straightforward to the point of being simple-minded. Everyone knows what's being asked. In part for that reason, responses to that question tend to yield useful data.
That question is extremely straightforward. Other times, our academicians and researchers may perhaps get a bit "creative" in formulating their survey questions.
This may not be a great idea. For one thing, academicians' less-than-fully admirable values may even start shining through.
Consider this murky, perhaps unfortunate survey question. It has been asked as part of the General Social Survey dating at least to 1977:
Question from the General Social Survey:Yesterday, we discussed some of the problems with that venerable survey question. Before we examine the way different groups responded to that question last year, might we consider one of the ways the values of our upper-class researchers may perhaps be announcing themselves in that question's wording?
"On the [sic] average (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are because most (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?"
GSS researchers ask that question about "most Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans" and about no other group. In truth, few groups have ever shown more mettle in emerging from abject economic subjugation, but the academicians continue to ask a question which seems to suggest that most most Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans remain in poverty today, which is of course untrue.
Beyond that, note the unfortunate wording. Along the way, many African-Americans worked at the types of jobs at which they were permitted to work. For example, they may have worked as railroad porters and as maids, not as academicians.
To the people who run the GSS, those were "worse jobs" than the lofty positions they themselves hold today. The researchers couldn't even bother themselves to use a term like "lower-paying jobs" as they formulated the question they've asked for the past forty years.
In short, this less straightforward, "creative" question may perhaps let us ponder the less-than-fully attractive values which may sometimes be found at the top of our liberal world. Such questions may also be full of "triggers" which help direct the types of responses the questions will receive.
The most ridiculous question of this type is another "creative" question which has been asked for decades in the "social science" game. We refer to the question in which respondents are asked if blacks deserve "special favors" to help redress the effects of past discrimination.
"Special favors!" What could possibly be the right way to answer that loaded question? Since no conservative would ever be likely to say that anyone deserves "special favors," the question almost seems designed to create an exaggerated sense of tribal division.
The wording of that common question is transplendently clueless. However one imagines its provenance, the question about those "special favors" has been routinely asked for decades.
Today, we liberals cite responses to that question as a marker of The Others' "racial resentment." That's a newfangled (and meaningless) academic term which seems to have been created so professors and partisans can claim that they really aren't trying to measure The Others' "racism."
At any rate, that GSS question about These Unmotivated Blacks Today strikes us as a very poor survey question. In effect, it's an "inkblot" question, one which seeks an instant reaction to a rather peculiar, counterfactual scenario which the researcher has proposed.
In her new book, What Happened, Hillary Clinton cites responses to that question as evidence of the fact that half The Others are "deplorable / irredeemable," just as she said last year. In fairness, she does make passing mention of the way We Flawless Liberals responded to that same question.
On Monday, we showed you Dan Merica's (accurate) account of what Clinton says in her book. Below, you see the fuller passage from her book, in which she says she was right on the substance, if not on the politics, when she trashed Those Trump Voters last year:
CLINTON (page 413): I'm not saying that all Trump voters are racist or xenophobic. There are plenty of good-hearted people who are uncomfortable about perceived antipolice rhetoric, undocumented immigrants, and fast-changing norms around gender and sexual orientation. But you had to be deaf to miss the coded language and racially charged resentment powering Trump's campaign.Clinton can find no other word for it! We regard that as a major problem, of politics, morals and substance.
When I said, "You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables," I was talking about well-documented reality. For example, the General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago found that in 2016, 55 percent of white Republicans believed that blacks are generally poorer than whites "because most just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up and out of poverty." In the same survey, 42 percent of white Republicans described blacks as lazier than whites and 26 percent said they were less intelligent. In all cases, the number of white Democrats who said the same thing was much lower (though still way too high).
Generalizing about a broad group of people is almost always unwise. And I regret handing Trump a political gift with my "deplorables" comment." I know that a lot of well-intentioned people were insulted because they misunderstood me to be criticizing all Trump voters. I'm sorry about that.
But too many of Trump's core supporters do hold views that I find—there's no other word for it—deplorable.
In fairness, Clinton's first statement is perfectly accurate, even in retrospect. She never said that all Trump supporters were deplorable / irredeemable. Even in real time, she only said that half his voters should be consigned to the regions of Hell, where they could roast in eternity.
That said, she didn't explain, in real time, how to separate the deplorables from the redeemables. And in the real world, when a candidate makes a sweeping condemnatory claim about half her opponent's supporters, all her opponent's supporters will likely feel that they've been condemned, along with their favorite aunts, who may be named Myrtle, and their sainted mothers.
Every candidate says something unwise or even dumb in the course of a long campaign. Clinton acknowledges that her statement was politically unwise. What's surprising is the fact that she continues to defend her claim on the merits. Also surprising, and unimpressive, is the way she does so.
Clinton still seems to be saying that 55 percent of white Republicans gave the "deplorable / irredeemable" answer to that inkblot GSS question about These Blacks Today. Their answer to that inkblot question burned the scarlet D onto their breasts.
That said, uh-oh! As Clinton pens this defense of her past remarks, she makes a fleeting admission. Some members of Our Own Master Tribe gave the deplorable answer too! This raises a troubling question:
How many deplorables do we have, Over Here, within our own liberal tents? Clinton admits that the number is "way too high." (She never says what the desirable number would be.) But she also seems to say that Our deplorables are "much fewer" than Theirs.
Tomorrow, we'll show you the actual numbers. We'll ponder what those numbers might mean. For today, we'll only say this:
To our eye, the numbers from our two warring tribes are much closer than Clinton's passage might make you suspect. Does she even know what the full set of numbers looks like?
We have no earthly idea. Our discourse is narrative all the way down. We rarely have time for full facts.
Tomorrow: And the most deplorable is...