Hillary Clinton doesn’t just think Donald Trump’s supporters are misguided. She thinks many of them are racist, sexist, and otherwise just bad people.
"To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables," Clinton said in remarks at a fundraiser on Friday obtained by CNN. "Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it."
Here is Clinton's full quote where she says "half of Trump supporters" fall into "the basket of deplorables"... pic.twitter.com/F1facUyEmT— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) September 10, 2016
Republicans immediately seized on Clinton’s comments, saying they represented an insult to the millions of Americans who say they plan to vote for Trump. Trump took to Twitter to voice outrage, and his campaign manager called on Clinton to apologize.
Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2016
There’s some irony in Trump’s anger here: He has appeared dismissive of his own supporters at times, once saying he loved the “poorly educated” among his supporters and claiming that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City and not lose any support.
It’s also worth pointing out that Clinton made similar remarks on Israeli television last week, suggesting that she’s hardly trying to keep the “deplorables” comment from public view.
Still, as the presidential race has tightened over the past few weeks, Trump will certainly be looking to exploit Clinton’s remarks.
“There are a huge number of undecideds right now, historically speaking — far higher this late than any campaign we’ve seen recently,” says Matthew Dickinson, a political scientist at Middlebury College, in an interview. “Being told you or the people you know are racist and misogynistic may not be the way to bring them into the fold.”
On Saturday afternoon, Clinton released a statement that stopped short of an apology but said it was “never a good idea” to speak in generalities about candidates’s supporters. The statement also noted that not all of Trump’s voters are simply racists. “As I said, many of Trump's supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel like the economy or our political system are working for them,” Clinton’s new statement said.
Hillary Clinton regards Republicans as her “enemies”
We shouldn’t be surprised to hear Clinton denigrate her opposition.
Back during the first Democratic presidential debate, she drew criticism for saying she was proud to regard Republicans as her “enemies.” Asked by Vox’s Ezra Klein this summer whether she regretted that remark, Clinton said she didn’t.
“They say terrible things about me, much worse than anything I’ve ever said about them,” Clinton told Klein. “That just seems to be part of the political back and forth now — to appeal to your base, to appeal to the ideologues who support you.”
This is a less idealistic vision of politics — some might say more realistic — than that of some of Clinton’s fellow Democrats. Bernie Sanders, for instance, thought a “political revolution” would win over skeptical Republican voters. In 2008, Barack Obama promised to bring the country together under the mantra of hope and change.
But as Vox’s Andrew Prokop has argued, Clinton’s attitude is different. She believes the polarized nature of today’s politics requires a grind-it-out style to overcome entrenched opposition.
This is an important context for understanding Clinton’s comments. If you regard your foes as implacably opposed to you, no matter what, it probably doesn’t seem too far a jump — or too harmful to your chances — to say they do so in part because they’re deplorable racists.