Hillary has claimed she “misspoke” when she asserted that half of Trump’s supporters were “deplorables,” They are “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.” But she only misspoke if we ignore how her characterization of some of Trump’s supporters is quite consistent with - and thereby reminds us of – the origins of what is called “Progressivism.”
The Progressive movement began as an effort to “cleanse” or “purify” American society, an effort that required regulating, managing, and even sterilizing those people(s) who were threatening the “healthy” people(s), viz., white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The threat was two-fold: First, the healthy people were in danger of committing was called “race suicide,” and they should, as Teddy Roosevelt asserted, “Work, fight, breed!” Second, the unhealthy people had to be controlled as they threatened to overwhelm the healthy people by winning the “battle of the cradle.” And to win that battle, many Progressives were led to support eugenics, including Margaret Sanger, the feminist, who proposed sterilizing entire “disugenic” populations in order to prevent the birth of “hordes of defectives,” as Teddy Roosevelt’s advisor on “inferior races” put it. Such thinking culminated in the Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell, where Justice Holmes, in upholding Virginia’s compulsory sterilization law, claimed “It is better for the world if. . . .society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind….Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
The “defectives” included Jews, Catholics, blacks, the Chinese, etc., etc., etc. As Roosevelt’s advisor on “inferior races” put it: “You can’t make boy scouts out of the Jews.” And a Baptist missionary manual claimed that the lower classes and races were characterized by “Low living, low intelligence, low morality, low capacity, low everything.” And as one well-known zoologist put it: “the mixture of two races reverts to the lower type [so] the cross between a white man and a Negro is a Negro, a white man and a Hindi is a Hindi, and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.” [All quotes are from Hellfire Nation, by James A. Morone.]
There is a dark side to progressivism, a racist, xenophobic, and sexist side, and Hillary’s use of the word “deplorables,” just like her use of the words “super predator” to describe “inner city male youths,” should remind us of this fact. Our national policy of mass incarceration, which received quite a boost from Bill Clinton, is not an aberration. Rather, it is a policy quite consistent with a “progressive frame of mind,” one that does not and cannot inoculate its bearers from racist, xenophobic, or sexist policies because it is, ultimately, “the other” who threatens us, creating a politics of fear that in turn facilitates hatred, a hatred that breeds oppression and justifies inhuman policies like torture, the killing of innocents labeled “collateral damage,” and endless wars. Remember Roosevelt’s admonition: “Work, fight, breed!”
The bottom line? It is not enough for Hillary to say she “misspoke.” She needs to repudiate her assertion and explain why. But this she will not and cannot do because it would mean repudiating her progressive politics, and she has no idea why she or anyone needs to do that.