Deplorable Votes Matter

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In his June 5 column, “Why Elites Hate: The liberal contempt for middle America is baked into the idea of identity politics,” Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn maintained that Democrats have lost votes and political power through their recurring expressions of condescension.

“Nine years after Barack Obama accused small-towners of clinging to guns or religion, nearly three years after Jonathan Gruber was shown to have attributed ObamaCare’s passage to the stupidity of the American voter, and eight months after Hillary Clinton pronounced half of Donald Trump’s voters ‘irredeemable,’ Democrats are now getting some sophisticated advice: You don’t win votes by showing contempt for voters,” wrote McGurn.

Subsequent to Senator Obama’s presidential campaign travels through Pennsylvania during his Road to Change bus tour, he spoke to a group of his well-heeled California backers at a San Francisco fund-raiser. “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them,” he said, explaining that jobs continued to fall through the Clinton and Bush terms in office and each successive administration. “It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Wrote Huffington Post columnist Mayhill Fowler, perceptively, about Obama’s professorial opining at the San Francisco fundraiser, “Obama made a problematic judgment call in trying to explain working class culture to a much wealthier audience. He described blue collar Pennsylvanians with a series of what in the eyes of Californians might be considered pure negatives: guns, clinging to religion, antipathy, xenophobia.”

In Mrs. Clinton’s aforementioned verbal display of contempt for Trump supporters, she went further, of course, than simply calling them “irredeemable.” Instead, her litany of political badmouthing of Trump voters generated a flourishing business in “Deplorable for Trump” t-shirts, sweaters, mugs, posters, stickers and ball caps.

Speaking at a stylish fundraiser in New York City, far removed from Turkeyfoot, Pennsylvania, Hillary managed in a disdainful, oversimplifying, rude, and gross few seconds to energize Trump’s supporters and fundraising: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic,” she declared, “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobicâ€"you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up."

The name-calling might have been effective, short-run, in generating chuckles and self-satisfaction among the moneyed attendees at the fundraiser, but it seems likely that the political insults didn’t help Hillary’s electoral prospects in a nation that’s geographically red with deplorables galore.
On election day, Mrs. Clinton “carried less than one-sixth of the nation’s counties,” reported the Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein, while “Trump’s path to victory mostly ran through the non-urban areas that had already moved toward the GOP in lower-ballot races under Obama.”

Successful in his two presidential runs, Obama nevertheless, maintained Brownstein, “narrowed the Democrats’ appeal, both demographically and geographically, in ways that helped Republicans seize unified control of the White House and Congress and establish their biggest advantage in state governments since the 1920s.”

McGurn cites the closing of Kooks Burritos in Portland as an example of how identity politics creates a backlash in middle America. Under growing criticism and negative publicity, two entrepreneurial and hardworking women in Portland shut down the burrito shop they founded and successfully operated due to an outpouring of politically correct accusations about cultural appropriation, white privilege, and their alleged “colonizing” of recipes.
Ralph R. Reiland is an Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Ralph R. Reiland
Email: [email protected]