Ever since Hillary Clinton made her “Basket of Deplorables” comment, a number of Democrats have become more sensitive to those very people. This is good because many Democrats do not need to be reminded that no one likes to be labeled in a pejorative manner. The people to whom Clinton referred have legitimate concerns about their own lives and the direction of the country.
In a less judgmental manner, the people about whom Clinton was speaking are by and large white, middle-aged or elderly, poorly educated, economically struggling and largely baffled by the world of enlightened and affluent liberals.
For many, Donald Trump became the first recent politician who seems to understand their plight and pledges to work for them. The irony is obvious because the only demographic characteristic that he shares with them is his skin color, something that is not unique among American political figures. If there had been no Trump and only “standard-issue off the shelf” Republicans running for the GOP nomination this year, it is possible that many more of these disenfranchised citizens would have hitched their wagons to the Bernie movement in the Democratic Party.
But Trump did run and it’s important to keep in mind that the path that he took was through the Republican Party. It’s possible that he could have taken the independent route, but the Republican way was such easy-going that he did not have to take on the burdens of building a whole new political infrastructure as other independents do.
As dysfunctional as the Democratic Party might be, it is at least a “Trump-free Zone.” It is impossible to imagine Donald Trump seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Democrats appreciate candidates who think rationally, who are consistent from one day to the next, who feel and express compassion towards those in need, and who view government (including taxes) as the best means to address social and economic ills. There is no way that a Trump movement could have flourished in the Democratic Party.
Since the conventions in July, the 2016 election has been far more of a battle of personalities and slogans than a dialogue or debate of different political perspectives. This makes it easier to just think of it as Trump vs. Clinton rather than a Republican vs. a Democrat.
It is important for all to remember that while Trump is not the typical Republican. He was made possible by the Republican Party. Assuming that he loses the 2016 race for the presidency, the Republican Party is going to have a huge task in trying to remake and rebrand itself. The current Trump supporters may be as close to Democrats as they are to “mainstream Republicans.”
I’d like to pass Hillary Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” comment off to a pneumonia moment (she uttered those words the evening after she was diagnosed with pneumonia). Win or lose, she and the Democratic Party in general are going to have to welcome back to the party those people who in many ways represented one of the key constituencies of FDR’s New Deal. Political observer Thomas Frank penned the book “Listen Liberal” in which he states that the Democratic Party has lost sight of blue collar workers and those who belong to labor unions.
Those who are currently struggling both economically and socially are far better served by the Democratic Party and the progressive policies that many support. Let’s hope that they get Trump out of their system and are willing to take a new look at a more welcoming Democratic Party.