In last year's presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton famously put her foot in her mouth by speaking of many Trump followers as being part of a "basket of deplorables." She took much justifiable criticism for violating a basic rule out of Politics 101--never attack the voters. But was she wrong, or did she merely commit a "gaffe", that is, speaking the truth in an inconvenient setting?
Actually there are five groups of Trump backers, three of which may justly be absolved of the accusation made by her. The first consists of the unemployed and unemployable living in fly-over country. These are the people who have been ignored by those in both parties making dubious trade deals. They are victims of automation at home and outsourcing abroad. As the forgotten citizens, they have a legitimate, indeed poignant, gripe. If I were among them, I too would have voted for Trump, if only to get even with a rotten system, if only to show that I would not go down without fighting back. There is nothing deplorable about them--other than their misjudgment in choosing the Pied Piper of Trumplandia as their tribune. One can only feel compassion for them when their rude awakening soon comes.
The second group contains the establishment Republican leaders, most of whom see through the Father of Lies but have made their bargain with the Devil in order to achieve their main goals in life: reducing if not ending the taxation of the top one percent and eliminating regulations that prevent corporations from poisoning our bodies and stealing our money. They are not deplorable because they merely do what they are used to doing, what they are paid to do. Dwelling in a morality-free zone, they live up to the name "politicians," which often is indistinguishable from "whores."
The third group inhabits radio and social media. It is filled with screamers and haters who are either fanatics or conmen. Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage (maiden name, "Weiner") are brain dead; modern Know-Nothings, they wouldn't recognize an idea if it hit them in the face. Objectivity, two sides to any question, dialogue, doubt--these are concepts alien to them. They are therefore not deplorable because one cannot hold a skunk responsible for being what it is.
Far different is the case with the fourth group, which consists of educated, affluent, sophisticated members of the chattering class: people like Conrad Black (a biographer of FDR, no less), Victor Davis Hanson (a classics scholar, of all things), Hugh Hewitt (a Harvard man), Laura Ingraham (smart enough to have clerked for a Supreme Court justice). How can people like that look at themselves in the mirror every morning, knowing that they root for an unhinged scoundrel without a single redeeming trait; knowing that he began his political venture with a six-year attempt to delegitimize a president, as well as to denigrate--though himself a multiple draft dodger--an authentic war hero? To have these intelligent, presumably moral people advocate for this "destructive man" (George Will's apt phrase) is truly deplorable. What excuse will they have when they at long last begin to see what many of their fellow Republicans and conservatives saw clearly from the moment that His Majesty descended the Trump Tower escalator like a deus ex machina? Namely that this blowhard know-it-all is a complete ignoramus and a fraud.
But the lowest circle in Hell must be reserved for the most contemptible collection of Trumpites--the so-called Christian Right. People who are supposed to be moral leaders, Christian role models, spokesman for sweetness and love--Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, and many others--praise a man who mocked the Communion wafer, who said he had nothing to be penitent about, who is the complete opposite of humble, who uses profane language, who is a serial divorcer, a confessed sexual assaulter, who politicizes and monetizes everything, who is a pathological liar and an incoherent idiot. Is Trump then the Anti-Christ? Perhaps not--yet. But he certainly is the Anti-Mensch.
These people try to sell what shrunken souls they have in return for political action on behalf, largely, of two non-political topics--abortion and homosexuality--about which Jesus, their alleged guru, said not a single thing. Jesus did, however, speak about hypocrites, which should give them lots to think about. On various occasions, surrounding Trump, they have sanctimoniously laid their hands on him and vociferously prayed with him, in a scene repeatedly plagiarized from RICHARD III.
These benighted people have turned Christianity into a racket, into an instrument to divide us and an opportunity for spreading fear and loathing. There is a venerable tradition of such betrayals, as well as of spiritual whistle blowers (including the great Pope Francis) to warn us about those who make a spectacle of their alleged piety or who politicize it. The pious Catholic Dante put some leading clerics into Hell, while the Protestant theologian Kierkegaard, who had an inner B.S.-detecting machine that he used to excoriate the many prominent would-be Christians in his time and place, would have had a field day here.
Organized religion has a long record of outdoing Machiavelli in making the end justify the horrible means: Think the Crusades, the Inquisition, the internecine religious wars. Just yesterday, an Orthodox Jew assassinated the peacemaking Yitzchak Rabin, Islamic fanatics did in the peacemaking Anwar Sadat, a pious Hindu did the same to the non-violent Gandhi. As Dr. Johnson famously said, "Patriotism [which of course includes the religious variety] is the last refuge of a scoundrel." What will these ultra-deplorable charlatans say to their Maker on Judgment Day?