The past weekend was kind to us here in Wichita, what with the Wingnuts knocking a grand slam homer in a seven-run fifth inning en route to a 13-0 blowout in an American Association playoff game against the Sioux City Explorers on a cloudless and slightly crisp evening Saturday evening over at the ballpark, and a fine sermon by the lay preacher who was filling in at the low church where we worship on Sunday morning, along with more of the recently perfect weather allowing for a long nap afterwards. We read that the weather was also quite pleasant in New York City over the weekend, yet somehow Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s already sputtering campaign seems to have seriously overheated there.
Clinton’s weekendus horribilis, to coin a Latinate phrase, began on Friday with another round of disappointing poll numbers. She’s still ahead in the supposedly definitive Real Clear Politics average, but her once-formidable lead has lately been narrowed to worrisome within-the-margin of error levels, and given that she’s mainly running against the widely reviled Republican nominee Donald J. Trump that was enough to have even The Washington Post admitting that “Democrats Worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?” The obvious answer to that headlined question is that Clinton is by now as widely reviled as Trump, with at least equally good reason, and by now the even most stubbornly sanguine Democrats are starting to notice.
With her Republican opponent uncharacteristically not offering any headline material of his own for the past few days, except for all that plunder and pillage talk and the vaguely homoerotic Russophilia he was gushing in that “Commander in Chief Forum,” where she was also awful, Clinton desperately needed a weekend free of gaffes or troubling incidents. Despite the nice weather, though, it didn’t work out that way.
Clinton’s problems started Saturday evening when she engaged in some grossly general language about half of Trump’s supporters. Lest you think we’re being unkind in describing it as grossly general, what she actually said was, “You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right?” The crowd at a homosexual rights group’s fundraiser reportedly responded with laughter and applause, apparently not noticing the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard quality of that “generalistic” coinage nor that “deplorable” is an adjective that does not lend itself to pluralization, so Clinton elaborated about “The racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to have only 11,000 people — now have 11 million.”
The remark naturally outraged the pro-Trump media, such as they are, and even the more polite press was reminded of Mitt Romney’s disastrous “47 percent” remarks last time that they made so much of last time around. In case you’ve happily forgotten the details of the ’12 race, Republican nominee Romney was clinging to a worrisome within-the-margin-of-error lead when some electronic eavesdropper recorded his off-the-cuff and intended-to-be-off-the-record remarks to a couple of donors that the Republicans’ anti-government agenda would always have a hard time appealing to the estimated 47 percent of Americans whose receipt of government spending exceeds their tax contributions. Romney’s lead evaporated after that, never to reappear, and we can see why the analogy is troubling.
At the time our only complaint with Romney’s remark was that it was grossly general, as we could see how the military veterans and necessary civl servants and the severely handicapped and the hard-working poor among that number might resent the implication, but also thought there was an argument to be made that some smaller portion of the country does indeed have an entirely self-interested motivation for vote for an ever-expansive government. This time around intellectual honesty compels us to admit that there are indeed some very nasty characters among the Republican nominee’s supporters, and that the Republican nominee has widely “re-tweeted” some of the worst of them, and that his campaign’s “chief executive officer” previously ran a web site that he openly touted as a “platform for the alt-right,” but we retrain a right to complain about the gross generalizations. Trump has consistently polled around 40 percent, we will not concede that 20 percent of the country is sexist, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or you name it, and even if they’re not as feminist and white-guilt-ridden and pro-homosexuality and sanguine about Islam as the average attendee at a Clinton fundraiser we can see how they resent the implication. It’s never a good idea to be so grossly general.
Lest you think we’re unkind in saying so, we’ll note that the next day Clinton told the press, “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying half — that was wrong.” Continuing in damage control mode, she added that “many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel the economy or our political system has been working for them.” She didn’t cite what percentage of Trump’s supporters she still believed fit her generalization, although we would have been interesting to see how it compared to our estimate, and she also promised to continue “calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign.” Which is pretty much analogous to the response Romney had after that “47 percent” remark, but in Clinton’s case we expect the more polite organs of the press will be quicker to let the matter drop.
Unfortunately for Clinton, even the most polite press are now obliged to report on her apparent collapse and subsequent medical condition after a memorial service for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City. A couple of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras captured Clinton falling into the arms of her entourage as she started to board her black van after an early departure from the ceremony, and after a few hours of recovery at her daughter’s nearby apartment she came out to wave at the cameras looking somewhat hale and tell reporters “It’s a beautiful day in New York.” At the first the campaign blamed it on Clinton “overheating” in the reported 75 degree and 40 percent humidity weather, but later she admitted was also being treated for pneumonia. Given that Clinton’s health has already been a bubbling-below-the-surface issue for months, with even the most respectable press forced to concede her frequent coughing fits and less-than-rigorous campaign schedule, and the pro-Trump press, such as it is, speculating on everything from incontinence to Parkinson’s Disease to demonic possession, this cannot be helpful to Clinton’s candidacy.
The Trump campaign is already calling for further release of Clinton’s medical records, and the public is bound to have the same curiosity. She’s already released far more information than that hilarious doctor’s letter that Trump offered, but he seems all too hale for our tastes, given his Vladimir Putin-esque tendencies, and we doubt that many will have the same concerns about his health. Already even the most polite press are starting to look into what happens if a major party nominee is unable to campaign or hold office, and there’s a relatively reasonable friend of ours on Facebook who is already calling for a substitute, and in this crazy election such an awful weekend as Clinton has had could plausibly bring that about.
If Clinton were to decide that being a First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and First Woman Major Presidential Nominee were enough, along with the millions she’s raked in with those speaking engagements and family foundation contributions that would be shut off for at least four years, we expect that just about anyone the Democrats might come up with would immediately be so far ahead of Trump that it would allay all those Democratic worries. Anyone they might come up with would also be awful, of course, but the mere lack of name recognition would immediately ensure that he or she didn’t have anywhere near the dismal approval ratings of either Clinton or Trump. The more polite press could immediately come up with some hagiographic story, the pro-Trump press, such as it is, would be playing only to already pro-Trump voters, and the Republicans would be left regretting that Trump didn’t evince some disqualifying medical conditions like he did back in the Vietnam draft days.
Even in this crazy election year we’re hard-pressed to imagine Clinton taking one for the team, though, and we expect she’ll slog right on through this joyless campaign year no matter what sorts of tubes and transfusions are required, and we would be surprised if she pulls it off. We wish her a speedy recovery, because that’s what we’re taught to do at that low church of ours, and we’re not wishing another attack of bone spurs on Trump’s feet, because that’s also against the creed, but we will offer a prayer for some wise outcome to this election, as unlikely as that seems.
— Bud Norman