I’ve been thinking a lot about Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment, made last week at a fundraiser in New York, for a number of reasons. The Republican faux-outrage at the comment dramatically highlights that party’s silence around the racist, Islamphobic, and sexist words of their own candidate. Clinton calls racists racists and Mike Pence pronounces her unfit to be president, but his running mate says racist comments all the time and the party is silent or Trump defenders insist that what we heard is not what we said—classic gaslighting.
Though Clinton apologized for her words (too bad, because they were lively and honest, I think), her claim was fundamentally correct: Trump supporters support bigoted positions and policies at a much higher rate than the rest of America, according to the results of research by Public Policy Polling, a highly reliable, slightly right-leaning research firm. According to PPP’s research, 65% of Trump supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim and 59% believe he was not born in the United States (Questions 17 and 18 of the PPI survey). Other research shows very high levels in belief in white superiority among Trump voters, which expresses itself as outright hatred as well as nostalgia for a time when white Protestants dominated all areas of American culture (and hence “Make America Great Again,” which hearkens to Reagan (though Trump claims he invented the slogan), to the mid-century, before Civil Rights, women’s rights, and gay rights, and to days before the Emancipation Proclamation). In the primary, he was heavily supported by voters who favor instant deportation of undocumented immigrants and a ban on Muslim immigrants. Republicans in general are less racially sensitized or attentive to the realities of racial inequality than are Democrats, with about 60% of Republicans saying that we pay too much attention to “race and racial issues these days” in a June poll from Pew, but Trump voters score highest in the worst qualities: ethnocentrism, anti-LGBT bigotry, white supremacy, xenophobia, anti-Muslim sentiment.
It turns out that probably well more than half of Trump voters support these nasty policies. And 7% of Trump’s own supporters see him as racist—and think it’s either perfectly acceptable to vote for a racist or that his racism is the very reason to vote for him. After Trump was denounced months ago for failing to rebuke David Duke, Mike Pence just this week also refused to denounce the former Klan leader and white supremacist.
Trump’s own supporters see him as racist–and they like him that way.
And that only makes sense, too, when you read the 2016 Republican platform. Trump voters will find in that document plenty of efforts to turn their bigotry into policy:
- the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will overturn the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples (pg. 10)
- a federal law that would allow businesses with government contracts to discriminate against same-sex couples (pg. 31-32)
- continued government support for the notion that the United States’ heritage is as a “Judaeo-Christian” nation (pg. 12), including support for teaching the Bible as literature (pg. 32) (which I think is a great goal, though it’s frequently done very poorly)
- photo ID requirements for voters (pg. 16), which disproportionately disenfranchises poor voters and people of color—which is exactly why they push for those requirements
- a radical reconsideration of “one person, one vote” (pg. 16), which disadvantages voters in districts with large populations of non-citizens
- the gutting or destruction of welfare benefits (pg. 18), SNAP benefits (pg. 18), and Medicaid (pg. 23), all of which are seen by Republicans as unfairly benefiting people of color
- support for the death penalty (pg. 40), which is disproportionately inflicted upon people of color
- support for environmental policies that harm and insult native communities (pg. 50)
- the codification of English as the official language of the United States (pg. 25)
- no amnesty for undocumented immigrants and punishment for cities that refuse to cooperate with that plan (pg. 25-26)
- the building of a wall between the US and Mexico, one that will stretch the entire length of the southern border and that is “sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic” (pg. 26)
Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, wondering what the hell happened to the party of Lincoln
Trump has both activated and fomented prejudices in America that are deep and long-lasting and never very far from the surface of our politics and our discourse. But he’s preaching this message standing on a much larger Republican platform.