Adorable deplorables: It’s not the economy, stupid

Hillary Clinton made a rare gaffe last month.  The usually methodical and overly cautious candidate tripped up when she called half of Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorable.”  Although she quickly backtracked on the “half” bit, the moniker stuck, giving rise to a defiantly stubborn group embracing their own ignorance and stupidity – witness “Deplorable Dan,” “Deplorable Sarah,” and, well, you can fill in the rest.  Interestingly, I don’t recall running into any Deplorable Khalifa, Krishna, or Javiers out there.  I’m sure they’re around, probably hiding somewhere.  The whole thing reminded me of that Sarah Palin skit on SNL, where she seemed oblivious to the fact that the joke was actually on her, as she grinned away on national TV and embracing her own silly simplicity.

But it got me wondering – what exactly is a “deplorable?”  Who are these people?

To be sure, not all Trump supporters are deplorables.  Republican politicians and reluctant Romney-ites are not deplorables.  Nutty, yes.  Insane, possibly.  Deplorable, no.  Or they’re career preservationists, gaming the system to ensure survival.  But true deplorables are a scary bunch.  I mean, downright frightening, pack up the car and let’s skedaddle, Nellie, sort of group.  These are people hellbent on violence, insurrection, and revolution.  Killary.  Hillary for Prison 2016.  Crooked Hillary.  The Crusaders of Garden City, Kansas.  Incidentally, why isn’t the GOP calling out The Crusaders for what they are – Radical Christian Terrorists?  Instead, they prefer the term “militia,” as if that’s somehow less frightening.  As if conjuring up images of John Parker or Paul Revere with muskets fending off the redcoats should bring a comforting tear to our eye.  What the GOP is really saying is this – Islamic terrorists (and Skittles, TicTacs, and other assorted candies) are a threat to civilized society as we know it.  But neo-Nazi, ultra conservative Minutemen like The Crusaders are not a threat to the party of old stodgy white men and their families.  No, white homegrown terrorists instead target the “browning of America,” as demographer William Frey calls it.  THIS is the cause célèbre for the deplorables.Trump support during the primaries

You thought it was jobs and trade?  Silly you.  Of course that’s what the GOP wants you to think.  Trump voters are better off than you think.  Census Bureau data from the primaries showed that average household income for a Trump voter is $74,000, compared to a national median of $56,000.  So what exactly drives deplorable mentality?  Would you believe me if I told you that, just coincidentally, Trump’s support runs highest from the Gulf Coast, through Appalachia, to New York, which is the same as a heat map of Google searches for racial slurs and jokes?

MAGA Make America Great AgainThis, my friends, is the mentality of a deplorable.  It is built on racism, hate, and intolerance.  A protectionist mentality.  When Trump voters yearn to “Make America Great Again,” that is a longing to return to the comforts of the 1950s, together with mom, apple pie, and your neighborhood cross-burning party.  A time when discrimination and political incorrectness were de rigueur.  When a woman’s place was in the kitchen and African Americans were segregated (or subjugated).  When terms like broads, spics, dotheads, and countless others assured the white man that name-calling was an appropriate way to demean others and preserve his position at the top of the societal pecking order.  But America’s browning threatens the white man’s grip on power.  Try to topple someone from their perch, and you can expect a vicious fight.  If that means death threats, arson, and other forms of violent insurrection, so be it.  Just ask Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald, who is Jewish.  Poor Kurt has published several exposés on Trump’s connections with Russia.

Deplorable attacking Kurt Eichenwald

Trump fan attacks Kurt Eichenwald

This is a sad essay on the progress of American society.  And frighteningly, these people aren’t going to go away on November 9.  How will we heal and move beyond this?  Perhaps our own Nuremberg-style trials?  Charging those responsible under 18 U.S. Code § 2383 (go look it up now)?  In the same way that Germany embarked on an aggressive denazification period after WW II, we will need to venture out on our own detoxification (er…detrumpification) period to exorcise these demons from our national consciousness.

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4 Responses

  1. Pat says:


    I agree with much of what you’ve written but I’d question that the average Trump supporter is earning something like 40% higher income than the median. How was that statistic derived, do you know?

    My impression is that many in the US are upset at the decline in job opportunities, exorbitantly high costs for education and health care, and the unfairness of what they see as an increasingly two-tier system of super-haves and everyone else. Why they chose Trump may well be rooted in racism but THAT they chose someone who is going to “set things right” is much more about economic degradation (imho) than simple bigotry. They didn’t back a demagogue like Trump (and no, Reagan wasn’t Trump) in the 1970’s or 1980’s or even the 1990’s. The catalyst is lost opportunity, lost future, and lost hope (again imho). Are they nasty and foul, in many cases yes, and am I concerned about the “next Trump” absolutely. Truth is, if Trump were more disciplined and not a rampant misogynist, he’d probably have won the election (which is an indictment of the Democratic Party in part but also a realization that it’s rare for one party to hold the Presidency for 3 terms). That means in 2020 we’re just a likely to get a worse, better version of Trump than we are to get Mitt Romney – and that should scare us all. There’s little chance we can start the “de-nazification” of the US because our 1st Amendment protects their right to be vile, so that’s just whimsy (I’m sure) on your part, but we DO need to challenge their ideas every time we see it and thank you for being one voice in what must be a chorus if it is to be successful.

    • The Brahmin says:


      Great counter-argument! The data on median income for Trump supporters came from FiveThirtyEight, the opinion poll analytics site, and was published during the primaries. Is it likely that median has shifted as Trump’s support has spread geographically? Very possible, but I’m not sure it’s statistically significant for this analysis.

      As far as the underlying cause for Trump supporters, you are absolutely right that it’s driven by a need for change, and not because someone woke up and randomly decided to be a racist. Yet, the end doesn’t justify the means. And I viewed it much like history views Hitler’s supporters (not necessarily Adolf himself). That they wanted economic change is true, but we remember the means to that end, which was of course to pin their ills on another culture, and the atrocities committed in the name of that cause. You might argue, then, why would I claim that “It’s not the economy.” I would suggest that any society that blames minority factions for its own ills has biases that enable that thinking. Normally covert or subtle, once pushed to an extreme (by a populist leader), those biases can easily result in overt racism and public safety concerns. The economy becomes a secondary vehicle in that scenario.

      I fully agree with your points, yet I deliberately (provocatively?) chose not to differentiate between the end and the means in this case.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  2. Patrick says:

    Immanuel Kant said, accept no prudentials, anything good cannot be good if accomplished by unethical means, but, neither he nor we can accept that circumstances may not warrant rational exception. in short, moral high-ground exists, so the ends sometimes warrant the means, but only if the higher level end is of greater ethical value than the means. in this case, hatred, exclusion and intolerance are not lesser in impact than trying to achieve a more fair economic state. So, that’s my 25 word way of saying, I agree even though my point was more that the justification isn’t, at it’s core, racist.

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