In mathematical notation an ellipsis (…) is frequently used to mean “continue on in like manner.” Suppose someone wanted to indicate all of the positive integers between one and, say, 31 million. One could obviously start writing down all the numbers, all 31 million of them. Good luck with that. Or one could simply write this: “1, 2, 3…31,000,000.” That little ellipsis is handy and pretty simple. And so is this: If you want to know why Mike Pence refuses to call David Duke deplorable, it all comes down to math. It comes down to that “1,2,3…” above.
If Pence conceded that, yes, Duke is deplorable, he has begun the count of just how many Trump supporters are, in fact, part of that “basket of deplorables” Hillary Clinton described. Her self-admitted “grossly generalistic” calculation that “half of Trump’s supporters” belong in that basket may, for all we know, grossly underestimate the number of “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” folks who are behind Trump. Such a thing isn’t exactly easy to quantify, but you have to start somewhere and Pence doesn’t want anyone to start counting and adding them all up.
But let’s do start counting. Let’s start counting with David Duke. Is he a Trump supporter? Absolutely. Is he deplorable? According to Republican Joe Scarborough he is. And on the set of Morning Joe this morning, all agreed with Joe that it should be easy for Mike Pence to say David Duke is deplorable. I think it is fair to say that most Americans would agree with Joe, too. So, that’s 1. And that number 1 is important because now we are not talking about whether some of Trump’s supporters are deplorable, we are talking about how many are deplorable. Again, it is now in the math.
Let’s try number 2. A man named Jared Taylor founded a “think tank” called the New Century Foundation. Taylor also manages a website called “American Renaissance.” He is a white nationalist. The Southern Poverty Law Center has some representative quotes from Taylor, including this:
Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization — any kind of civilization — disappears.
Taylor’s think tank embraces the idea that “the presence” in America of so many dysfunctional blacks is a big “disadvantage” and that “there are more black psychopaths and more psychopathic behavior among blacks.” You get the idea. Helpfully, Buzzfeed pointed out that Taylor is “an avid supporter” of Donald Trump:
In a recent post, Taylor contended, “If Mr. Trump loses, this could be the last chance whites have to vote for a president who could actually do something useful for them and for their country.”
Now, I think it is fair to say that most Americans would publicly (forget privately for this exercise) admit that Trump supporter Jared Taylor is deplorable. If David Duke is deplorable, so is Taylor. That’s number 2.
Now, let’s get a little bit closer to the mainstream. How about Ann Coulter? She appears on Fox a lot and also on MSNBC now and then. She is a bestselling author and her latest book is “In Trump We Trust.” Clearly she is a Trump supporter. Is she deplorable? Oh, I dunno, let’s look and see if she might be, among other things, xenophobic:
A lot of people are upset when I talk about Mexican child rapes, Muslims clitorectomies, Muslim honor killings…white people don’t do that. America is not used to these types of crimes. We are bringing in cultures where child rape is very common.
Again, I think most Americans would (publicly) concede that the person who made that statement—and there are plenty more like it—deplorable. Certainly, most American women would find deplorable a woman who said, “I think there’s a reason the words ‘bitchy’ and ‘hysteria’ come from females.” Or who made a sexist statement like this:
If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream. It’s a personal fantasy of mine.
So, Coulter is number 3. Now we are at the ellipsis. We’ve got to get to the 31 million mark. But first, why 31 million? Oh, that’s fairly straightforward. Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s chief political correspondent, wrote a few days ago:
In the RealClearPolitics average of the presidential race, Trump takes support from 42.9 percent of registered or likely voters. Half of that, given more than 146 million registered voters, is about 31 million people—right around 13 percent of all voting-age adults.
Now you know where the 31 million number came from. So, was Hillary Clinton right that so many folks in America belong in a basket of deplorables? Well, let’s first note three things:
- Prior to her remarks, Hillary Clinton admitted she was being “grossly generalistic.”
- After her remarks she admitted that being so generalistic is “never a good idea” and she was “wrong” to say “half.”
- There are many—way too many—deplorable Democrats, too.
Given that, let’s quickly get to whether she was even close to the right percentage of Trump supporters who hold bigoted views (the bigotry was, really, the point she was trying to make). Given that it is difficult to measure such things, there is some strong evidence that Clinton was onto something. I’ll let The Nation’s Joan Walsh sum it up:
On Saturday, she walked back her claim that bigots make up “half” of Trump backers, but not her charge about the role of bigotry in his rise. But she needn’t have. Journalists like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jamelle Bouie, andJudd Legum have shown that Clinton was right. Two-thirds of Trump supporters believe President Obama isn’t an American (Trump’s first political crusade, you’ll recall.) Sixty percent have “unfavorable views” of Islam, while more than 40 percent believe blacks are “more violent” and “more criminal” than whites. My personal favorite data point: Twenty percent of Trump backers think Lincoln was wrong to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
That sounds like some fairly convincing math to me.