WASHINGTON ― Hillary Clinton may view Donald Trump as a racist misogynist, but she feels some sympathy for his supporters.
Speaking at a conference of black and Hispanic journalists, the Democratic presidential nominee walked a fine line, casting many of Trump’s most controversial comments as racist and xenophobic, while declining to extend that characterization to his ardent supporters.
“We have to recognize that, of course, some of the appeal [of Trump] is xenophobic, racist, misogynistic,” Clinton said, while cautioning the audience not to “lose sight of the pain that many Americans are feeling because the economy has left them behind.”
Clinton recalled Trump’s harsh words against Mexican immigrants and his repeated attacks against Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Muslim parents who lost their Army captain son, Humayun, in the Iraq war.
Despite the wide gulf that separates Clinton from Trump’s hardcore supporters, she explained his nationalist appeal as a reaction to the declining fortunes of much of the American middle class with the dwindling of manufacturing and the harsh recession of 2008.
She said she’d met with a coal mining family in West Virginia, a state she expects to lose in November. But in listening to their concerns, Clinton said she became more sensitive to the wider discontent among Trump supporters with the shortage of stable jobs with decent pay.
“We have to reject and stand up against the appeals to the kind of bigotry and the use of bluster and bullying we’ve seen come from the Trump campaign,” Clinton said. “But let’s not forget the pain … all Americans are feeling.”
She added that she would continue to reach out to Americans “of all ethnicities,” a phrase usually invoked to refer to groups other than white males.
Clinton made the comments at a joint annual conference of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Trump was invited to attend, but declined.
The GOP presidential nominee has consistently alienated voters of color that the Republican Party sought to reach out to more consistently after Mitt Romney bombed among Hispanics in 2012, winning only 27 percent of the Latino vote.
Instead, Trump’s support base is largely white and male, though a McClatchy-Marist poll released Friday showed that his support among that demographic had dropped from a 14-point lead over Clinton last month to just eight points after the conventions and his public feud with the Khan family.