Well look at that. For the first time in what feels like a long while, we’ve had a week where Hillary Clinton has featured more prominently in the news than Donald Trump. It feels strange.
First, Clinton’s health. To be honest, I’m not that fussed about it. Yes, we should be electing a president who has the capacity to take on the rigors of that job. Yes, certain health conditions might diminish that capacity. But it seems like Clinton is suffering from plain ol’ respiratory issues borne of a punishing schedule and her plain ol’ humanity. People get sick.
If it were me campaigning across the country with a presidency at stake, if it were me pushing as hard as I could, I would probably develop pneumonia too. My horrible sinuses would act up like they tend to do, congestion would sink into my chest, and it would all go downhill from there. I might even develop shingles or vertigo or one of my other stress-related downfalls.
I just don’t think we should panic about Clinton’s cough. Or her swoon or whatever it was.
But I do think the Clinton campaign was foolish to not be more forthright about the situation. They have to know that one of her vulnerabilities is the perception that she is secretive and untrustworthy. Why feed into that narrative by tossing out a smattering of insufficient answers before finally getting to the real deal? Some people seem to routinely make mountains out of molehills by being vague, by dancing around subjects that could be dealt with by just … saying it. That’s a lesson Clinton still needs to learn: Say what you mean and be done with it.
Except maybe sometimes you should know better than to say what you really mean. Take Clinton’s now-infamous “basket of deplorables” comment.
What a foolish move. What an unnecessary, foolish and probably revealing mistake for her to have made.
I disagree with Hillary Clinton on a great number of important matters, but I have to admit that my default feeling towards her (a bitter sort of resentment) doesn’t so much stem from her policy positions as it does from years of statements that have given me the impression that she views people like me with disdain. I am no Trump supporter, so I guess I’m not included in her basket this time. But I know and love people who are and (I shouldn’t even have to say this) not one of them is deplorable.
And anyway, as a Catholic who makes a big deal about the value of every human life, I just don’t think we should be calling people deplorable. Period. Do people sometimes do and say deplorable things? Absolutely. Do such things make people wrong? Yes. But there is a difference between deploring an action, a phrase, a behavior – and deploring a person in his or her totality.
Also, the statement (and Clinton’s later revision of the word “half” but not the word “deplorable”) was a very poor political move.
The thing about politicians is that they rely – completely, totally, 100-percent rely – on their ability to work with other people to get things done. They are not engineers who can succeed based on their ability to make the math work. They are not doctors whose intuition and training can cure people even when their bedside manner isn’t the best. They’re not even business people who can strategize or manage or market their way to success. Politicians rely on people and their relationships with them above all else. If they write off or turn off too many (including the public at large), they will fail.
I just don’t see how a politician can afford to call a significant portion of the electorate something as truly awful as “deplorable.” Clinton’s comment was worse than Mitt Romney’s 47-percent comment; she deserves to be held just as accountable for it as he was for his.
This whole “deplorable” thing has prompted me to think about my own feelings toward the segments of the voting population with whom I disagree. I’m not truly angry with them. Maybe I’m the kind of frustrated-angry where you want to grab someone by the shoulders and shake some sense into them, but I’m not the kind of shouty-angry where you fool yourself into thinking that those someones are bad guys out to wreck society.
Part of it is because I recognize the love and beauty in people I know and disagree with. In them, I note a position I disagree with or support for a candidate I can’t stand, but I mostly see their talents and kindnesses and humor and wit and hard work and loyalty. And I know that if this “there’s-more-to-a-person-than-his-politics” thing is true of the small slice of America I’m familiar with, it’s also true for the rest of it.
The other part of it is that I’ve come to realize that I do not have a good understanding of the experiences and difficulties many Americans have lived through. As I wrote on my personal blog a few months ago:
I know nothing of what it’s like to live in the west, on the plains, with farmland stretching for hundreds of miles in every direction. I don’t know how it feels to be held captive by the weather and her whims. I don’t know what it’s like to be a descendant of pioneers, to have stubborn resilience for a heritage.
Neither do I know what it’s like to be a child of immigrants or a great-great-grandchild of slaves. I don’t know what it’s like to be from mountains or shore or desert or city. I don’t know how it is to live in a factory town or a coal town or a fishing village, everyone’s livelihood depending on a tired, waning industry. I am out of my element visiting my husband’s family in the Midwest. I have felt similarly foreign in New England and the Deep South.
All I know – all I really know – is my corner of this land, my way of living.
So when I huff and puff and heave my chest in maddening wonder at Donald Trump’s ascendancy – when I bark an “I don’t understand these people!” – I’m right. I really don’t understand them. I have not lived their experiences. I have not shared their struggles. I have not felt their frustrations. . .
There is so much we don’t understand about each other.
And if this election cycle is teaching us anything, maybe that should be it.
How awful (deplorable, even) about that arson attack on the mosque in Florida. Not only is it just inherently mean and hateful and evil to attack a place of worship, but such attacks must surely provide valuable fodder to terrorists. How maddening. What could emphasize the anger and estrangement of a person vulnerable to terrorist recruitment more than feeling like he’s under attack?
Also maddening: 20 Marines Face Possible Punishment Over Hazing At Parris Island.
Terrorism aside, I’m becoming increasingly worried about global security. I’m nervous about what the coming years hold for our relations with Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. And I think the time has come to give serious consideration to what can be done about an ever more belligerent, resilient North Korea.
I feel like every time I step back from the weeds of the presidential election – the insults and illnesses and gaffes and protests – I see more at stake than we want to attribute to this thing. Let’s not diminish this election’s importance. Let’s not tell ourselves that none of this matters.
(I’m linking up with Kelly of This Ain’t The Lyceum for this week’s 7 Quick Takes. Come Friday, be sure to stop by her place to see what she and the other 7-Quick-Taking crowd have been up to.)
Interested in coming along with me as I chew on politics, current events, and faithful citizenship? Like The Space Between’s Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my personal blog, These Walls.