Hillary Clinton’s 2016 warning about the “deplorables” emerging in the Republican Party when Donald Trump ran against her for president wasn’t just correct; she underestimated their impact, a Salon commentator wrote in a scathing essay posted Wednesday.
“In many ways, Clinton was too kind,” Chauncey DeVega wrote. “If anything, she underestimated how many Americans were in fact committed and enthusiastic human deplorables.”
The political essayist is not the first to revisit Clinton’s speech of late. The Washington Post recently noted that some called the former senator’s remarks “prescient.” The Baltimore Sun declared last year, “Ms. Clinton was right.”
But DeVega’s take is worth a look through its alarming lens of just how clairvoyant Clinton proved to be.
In a 2016 campaign speech, Clinton mentioned the millions of racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic followers empowered by Trump. She grouped them in a “basket of deplorables” and was condemned by many, including some Democrats, for the remarks.
“That reaction to Clinton’s truth-telling helped to [legitimize] Trumpism and American neofascism (operating under the mask of “populism”) as something that was reasonable and understandable, rather than as a manifestation of racial resentment,” DeVega wrote.
FBI data reported by Brookings in 2019 indicated that Trump’s election spurred the second-highest uptick in hate crime, just behind the Sept. 11 attacks. The hate also fed on Trump’s threat of crackdowns against those protesting George Floyd’s death by police. He also fueled the rise of anti-Asian American sentiment because of his “Chinese virus” rhetoric in referring to COVID-19.
DeVega asserted that if Clinton had won the presidency, America “would not necessarily be drowning under a fascist tide which has imperiled our democracy and our future.”
Then the writer took an even more ominous turn.
“Matters are now so dire that it is now not a question of whether American democracy will succumb to a nightmare reign of full-on fascism but rather when that will happen,” he wrote. “If America’s neofascist movement continues to gain momentum, Joe Biden will be relegated to the role of a speed bump or an asterisk in American history.”