Hillary Clinton’s comments to an audience of donors at a private fundraiser sent a shockwave through the political and media establishments Friday night.
In her remarks, Clinton candidly categorized half of Donald Trump’s supporters as falling into a so-called “basket of deplorables.”
“To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” she said. “Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”
The quote quickly caught fire on social media. Journalists breathlessly clutched their metaphorical pearls over the prospect of Clinton potentially painting a sizable cross-section of Americans with too broad a brush. Meanwhile, Republicans predictably worked themselves into a lather trying to spin the comment as her very own Romney-esque “47 percent” moment that would surely doom her campaign.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for the new conventional wisdom to solidify: Hillary Clinton had made a serious gaffe. She had drastically overreached in “writing off” 50 percent of Trump supporters as prejudiced, and she would certainly pay the political consequences for her foolishness.
But here’s the thing: Hillary Clinton wasn’t wrong. She didn’t misspeak. She didn’t overreach. If anything, she was perhaps too kind in her assessment of the ugly side of Trump’s base — the “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” crowd may be even larger than she suggested.
This isn’t conjecture. Pollsters have been regularly studying the attitudes and opinions of Trump supporters for more than a year — which leaves no shortage of proof points to bolster Clinton’s case. All we have to do is look.
Let’s start with some good old-fashioned racism. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll from June, roughly 50 percent of Trump supporters reported viewing African-Americans as more “violent” and “criminal” than whites, with 40 percent or more also saying that blacks were more “lazy” and “rude” than their white counterparts. And given Trump’s role in the rise of the racist “birther” movement, it seems fitting that 65 percent of his backers still believe the falsehood that President Obama is a secret Muslim and 59 percent continue to insist that our nation’s first black president was not born in the United States, according to a May survey by Public Policy Polling.
Of course, Trump’s appeal isn’t exclusively about giving voice to white supremacists. It’s also about spreading rampant xenophobia. So it’s unsurprising that 69 percent of Trump supporters view immigrants as a burden on the country, while half say that undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit serious crimes than U.S. citizens, according to a pair of 2016 studies by Pew Research Center.
But while much of Trump’s rhetoric has focused on his disdain for Mexican immigrants (whom he infamously called rapists and criminals in his campaign announcement speech), the Donald and his followers also harbor a special distaste for Muslims — whether they are American citizens or not. A NBC News/Survey Money poll from February found that a full two-thirds of Trump supporters held an unfavorable view of American Muslims, with 87 percent in favor of instituting a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
That widespread Islamophobia doesn’t seem to have dissipated much since the height of the hothouse Republican primary season. A Reuters/Ipsos survey from July reported that 58 percent of Trump backers held an unfavorable view of Islam, with 78 percent believing that Islam was more likely to encourage acts of terrorism than other world religions. Similarly, a Pew Research Center study in August found that 57 percent of Trump adherents said Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny because of their religion.
And if you really want to savor the cherry on top of Donald and co.’s deplorable discrimination sundae, there’s this final nugget: in the year 2016, more than a year after the Supreme Court put the issue to bed in a landmark decision, 52 percent of Trump supporters still oppose allowing LGBT Americans to marry legally, according to a recent Pew poll.
The data is incontrovertible. The evidence is abundant. The truth is plain to see. Virtually every single one of those numbers reveals a healthy majority of Trump supporters espousing one form of prejudice or another — all of which means that Hillary Clinton was not wrong in characterizing half of Trump’s faithful as unrepentantly bigoted. If anything, the numbers say she may have been a tad too nice.
Regardless of what the pundits and her opponents may say, this was not a gaffe. This was not Hillary Clinton’s “47 percent” moment. It was simply some stone-cold truth-telling — because the numbers certainly don’t lie.