- - Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What an opportunity Hillary Clinton missed with her talk about “basket cases.” She blew a chance to broaden empathy for the unhappy, dissatisfied, disenchanted voters who find Donald Trump’s message of strength, making America great again, important and crucial. She demeaned all those voters imperiled by the global economy, threatened by waves of illegal immigrants who compete for low-end jobs, and who are angry at the politically correct elitists who undercut their values. By narrowing sympathy for them, she expands her negatives.

The two candidates have traded places. Hillary demonstrates how she can stoop to insult as smoothly and as cruelly as ever her prime nemesis has done. The Donald, for once, stayed on message, eschewing ad-libbed black-and-blue language, even looking presidential in his concern for Hillary’s flailing health. No one would dare call this a “pivot,” but it’s refreshing.

Not only did Hillary lump half of her basket cases together as irredeemable bigots, and the other half as helpless, hopeless, desperate dependent victims. She shut down constructive conversation over what kind of leadership she would provide for the millions who don’t see the world through her royal-blue glasses. Equally as disquieting was the place she chose to make her remarks, among the wealthy star-seekers at a fundraiser in New York, members of an elite society who enjoy their privileges blindly enough to be amused by her mean characterizations, as though she were performing in a skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

Donald Trump was right to call them out. “She and her wealthy donors all had a good laugh,” he told the National Guard Association meeting in Baltimore. “You heard them. They were all laughing. Good, good solid laugh. They were laughing at the very people who paved the roads — these are the roads that she with all of her security [guards], drive on — [who] paint the buildings she speaks in, and all of the other functions.” She mocked the voter, not the candidate, always a dangerous tactic in a democracy.

Hillary’s vulgar references brought out a rare eloquence in the Donald. He reminded his audience that his supporters come from every part of America and every occupation: “Cops and soldiers, carpenters and welders, the young and the old, and millions of working-class families who just want a better future and a good job.” It was not quite Walt Whitman, but it wasn’t bad.

Hillary managed to half-apologize for generalizing so broadly as to include half of his supporters, but her broad-brush name-calling smacks of guilt by association, and suggests she did it intentionally to try to guilt-trip the independents who dare think of voting for Donald Trump. She insists they would be buying the bad brand.

Trump followers, however, are having the last laugh, in their T-shirts with the slogan “adorable deplorables.” A poster parodying “Les Miserables” depicts a triumphant ragtag clutch of revolutionaries marching up the hill under two flags. One is the Stars and Stripes, the other emblazoned with the name “Trump.” The caption in bold letters identifies them as “Les Deplorables.”

Hillary’s remarks coincided with the hide-and-seek controversy over her health problems. In the Los Angeles Times tracking poll, released this week, Mr. Trump now leads by 5 points. This is still within the margin of error, and polls are mere snapshots in time, but it suggests the toll taken by Hillary’s undisciplined mouth.

Her slurs against Trump supporters and working-class men and women enabled him to draw an emphasis to an image of her as the rich insider who thinks she never has to show mercy to anyone. “While Hillary lives a sequestered life behind gates and walls and guards,” he says, “she mocks and demeans hardworking American who only want their own families to enjoy a fraction of the security enjoyed by politicians.”

Then, with a bow to his emerging softer, sensitive side, he offers something to women from whom he suffers such a gap. He presented a child care policy for families in a speech in a Philadelphia suburb, reflecting the strong influence of two strong women. Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, wants him to make child care a priority, and his daughter Ivanka Trump, mother of three and passionate on the subject, helps him with details.

In an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, Ivanka defended her father for his harsh remarks in the past about women. She cast her defense with a feminist twist. “He’s an equal opportunity offender, she said. “In speaking his mind, he treats women the same as men, showing that he understands that women are as equipped as men to deal with it.” It’s not clear whether that includes Hillary.

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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