It’s been five days, and I still can’t fathom the unbelievably bigoted speech Hillary Clinton gave Friday to the LGBT for Hillary Gala in New York City.
I had no idea that Clinton disliked racists, sexists and homophobes that much.
Clinton may have erred when she, by her own admission, grossly generalized to say “half” of Donald Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables” who are “irredeemable.” But there’s no denying that you can find plenty of deplorable folks among his base.
The New York Times posted a video in early August that consisted of random scenes from Trump rallies gathered by the newspaper’s reporters over the course of a year. In it, Trump fans utter vile, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic remarks.
Trust me, they are deplorable.
I’m not saying (and neither was Clinton) that all Trump supporters are deplorable. I know many Trump voters. Some of them are even my friends, and I happen to know they don’t have a racist bone in their bodies.
And it’s hardly just Trump supporters who are eligible for inclusion in the basket of deplorables. Some backers of Bernie Sanders said some equally hateful things about Clinton during the primary, too.
Clinton’s remark created controversy in part because she broke the fourth wall of politics, in which no politician is ever supposed to insult any voter at any time, no matter how ignorant, vile or hateful that person is. All politicians like to pretend they’re running a campaign aimed at appealing to the broad swath of the American electorate. (Clinton’s slogan — emblazoned on the side of her campaign plane — hints at this: “Stronger together.”)
Not only that, but Clinton’s remark confirmed a longstanding inferiority complex that infects many on the right, who have long suspected that liberal elites hold them in low regard because of their political views. After Clinton classified half of Trump’s backers as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,” a wave of anger followed. At last, confirmation of what the right has long suspected about liberals, who pretend to love all mankind but harbor secret loathing of anybody who checks the Republican box on a voter registration form!
It’s a bit of a wonder, given the oft-stated contempt with which many right-wingers view their liberal counterparts, why any of them would even care what the left thinks of them at all. But in my experience, many of them spend a great deal of time pondering that question.
Anyway, if no one else will say it (Clinton quickly backed off her remarks), allow me to: If you say racist, hateful things, you are deplorable. If you punch a protester who is in police custody in the face, you are deplorable. If you yell taunting slogans at other people based on their skin color, you are deplorable. The rest of us in civilized society will look down on you as a result.
But no matter how vile the words or how black the heart of a person uttering them, the First Amendment gives everyone in this nation the right to say (or scream, or type) whatever they wish. Censorship is wrong. In fact, it’s counterproductive. I prefer a world in which the deplorable identify themselves straightaway, and since they seem so eager to do so, let them have at it.
No, the cure isn’t to silence anyone; it’s to counter bad speech with good, to promote the praiseworthy over the deplorable, and to do what we can to change the minds of our political opponents.
And most important of all: Our fellow Americans are not irredeemable. Hatred is born of ignorance, and ignorance is countered by education, greater understanding and an appreciation for humanity in all its forms. And it’s a good bet that we could — all of us — use a little more of that.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.