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Drawing the Line for Democracy

September 10, 2016

Hillary does it again!

Civil War, Integration of the Army, Civil Rights Movement. Those are just three of the times when it was vitally necessary to our democracy, that politicians draw a bright line between the view that there exists a minority of superior, fully human, fully deserving Americans, and the view that all Americans are equally human and deserving. With the current Republican challenge to the egalitarian view, we have another moment when Americans must be confronted with the demand that they decide which side of that line they stand on, and thus what is the foundational definition of “America.”

Hillary Clinton, as the Democratic nominee for the American presidency, has found herself confronted with our need to highlight that line, to make it bright again, and she has done so, with no mistaking her challenge. [Update: text below.]

Some significant percentage of American voters are “deplorable,” as Hillary put it, for their support of an extremist candidate who is viciously racist, sexist, classist, the whole pathological package. I hope it is less than “half,” but by making that percentage 50/50, she has said, this is it, you declare yourself to be one or the other: you are morally sick, perhaps even incurable; or you are aggrieved but you know better than that. You are bigger than that. You will not vote against our vision and principles of democracy. You will not stand outside our common humanity.

That’s what it’s all about, and she is making that fact perfectly clear again. Only on the basis of that therapeutic clarification can she build a presidency of inclusion, and a better life.

And btw, let’s hope her presidency is the time when we extend the application of our vision to include those of us whose ancestors honored the earth before the European invasion.

[Update: Well, like Josh Marshall, whose excellent ruminations I’ve just now read, I’m having to deal with Hillary’s “apology.” I wrote the above, this morning, on the basis of my reading last night, then decided to catch up on the news before publishing it. Surprise. So here is the section of her original remarks (as reported by Time magazine), and then the text of her apologia:

Last night:

I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think well he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?

The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

This morning:

Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong. But let’s be clear, what’s really ‘deplorable’ is that Donald Trump hired a major advocate for the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement to run his campaign and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values. It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people. It’s deplorable that he’s attacked a federal judge for his ‘Mexican heritage,’ bullied a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and promoted the lie that our first black president is not a true American. So I won’t stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign. I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind. 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. I’m determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. Because we really are “stronger together.”

Okay, Keep driving the point home: T supporters who need help and whom we have not forgotten, vs. “the deplorables.”

Further Update:  Pertinent polling data.]

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