What's a person like me? Someone who was born here, someone who votes in every election, someone who tries to pay attention to what's going on locally, at the state level, and in Washington DC. Someone who understands that she has a right to complain about the state of things in this country - a guaranteed right to do exactly that, in fact. Someone who is proud of her country, even as it frustrates her.
Three of the president's four most recent targets were born here - they originally were from America, just like I am. The fourth came here as a child refugee, and has been a citizen longer than the First Lady. All four of them are duly elected representatives of the districts they live in, whether the rest of us like it or not. They are entitled to their policies, their opinions, and they have the absolute right to express them, just like I do. And just like the president does. (I said the women are his most recent targets; the of them is long, I can assure you; here's one example if you need refreshing.)
But let us, for a moment, take a stroll down memory lane, to a time in the not-so-distant past, when the words you see below were considered to be beyond the pale, so far beyond the pale that they helped cost Clinton the election.
We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, just to 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, Islamophobic - 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 have only 11,000 people - now have 11,000,000. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks - they are irredeemable but thankfully they are not America.Almost three years after Hillary Clinton's comments were leaked, where do things stand?
- Trump continues to act deplorably, to the delight of his deplorable supporters. I will repeat, "just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters" - not all of them - into that bucket. They are the vocal segment of his people, the ones who repeat and expand upon and embellish his hateful comments like the ones he made the other day.
- Not only do his deplorable supporters expand upon those remarks, Trump himself expands upon them. For example, when asked if it concerns him "that many people saw that tweet at racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point" Trump answered "It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me." There was more expansion and escalation, but that one comment pretty much sums things up.
In an opinion piece in The Week last October, in the aftermath of the bombing at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the pipe bomb mailings, Damon Linker addressed some of this, saying in part
Every president is elected by a distinct electoral coalition, and the coalition that elected Trump included an unusually large number of people with virulently illiberal, extreme right-wing views - the kind of people who normally find both major-party nominees far too blandly centrist to inspire much enthusiasm.Trump's messages - birtherism and his denigrating comments against Mexicans and Muslims included - spoke to the deplorables, and he's still talking to them today. Linker also pointed out that Trump speaks to his voters with "what one might call his habits of mind" including hostility to the media, his embrace of conspiracy theories, and his "refusal to distance himself from far-right people and ideas." They love him for that, and he loves them for loving him.
The problem with his habits is the impact they have on the rest of us. Going back to Linker's piece,
We can never know what's truly in another person's heart - and that's especially true when the person lies with the unrestrained abandon of our current president. The question of Trump's "true views" is utterly irrelevant. What matters is what he says, and its effect on the country. And on that there can be little doubt. Trump spews his hateful poison into the civic culture of the country day in and day out.I think it would be hard for someone to spew this stuff day after day, week after week, month after month, without actually believing it. I don't believe he is an actor of any skill, any more than (at least so far) he's proven himself to be a great deal-maker, or that he's shown he can "act presidential."
He believes what he says, I'm sure - and he believes in what he says, I'm equally sure. And in that regard, his transition is complete. Trump is the president of the deplorables.
He may still be the president of some (or all) of the other 50% that Clinton mentioned, but we will only know them by their condemnation of his blatantly racist tweets.