Hillary Clinton’s Deplorables and Irredeemables


W.J. Astore

When Hillary Clinton called out half of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables,” to the point where some are “irredeemable,” I shook my head at her elitism even as I was surprised by her lack of political acumen.  Her comment lumping these “deplorables” into a “basket” came at a fundraiser on September 9th, even as her podium touted the message “stronger together.”  As I wrote in a Facebook post on September 10th, “Painting half your opponent’s supporters as [potentially] irredeemable is just bad strategy.”

But it’s worse than that.  First off, Hillary should have known better.  After all, she went aggressively after Barack Obama when in 2008 he made his comment about bitter rural folk clinging to guns and religion.  (And Obama’s comment is considerably milder than Hillary’s.) By calling out Obama for his comment, Hillary was able to win that year’s primary in Pennsylvania.  Second, for a seasoned pol Hillary showed a surprising lack of discipline.  She herself prefaced her remarks with the phrase, “to just be grossly generalistic.”  Grossly generalistic?  That’s supposed to be Trump’s sphere, not Hillary’s.

But third and finally is that word, “irredeemable.”  Having been raised Catholic and having studied evangelicalism and American religion, that word instantly caught my attention. For Christians, to suggest that someone is “irredeemable” is in itself deplorable.  It’s as if you’re limiting the agency of God.  God determines who is redeemable and who isn’t.  No sinner, i.e. human, has the probity or power to do so.

All Christians know the story of the thief on the cross next to Christ as He was crucified. Christ chose to redeem that man, saying to him that “today, you will be with me in paradise.” As I type these words, an old hymn plays in my mind: “Christ, Jesus, victor.  Christ, Jesus, ruler.  Christ, Jesus, Lord and Redeemer.”  For God, no one is “irredeemable,” nor should any person make such claims, for God’s ways are past searching out.

Mark Shields on PBS put this exceptionally well this past Friday night:

You don’t [use that word, irredeemable] — America is built on redemption. People came here because things weren’t working out.

My generation, the old, oldest fart generation, OK, 13 percent of us were in favor of same-sex marriage 15 years ago, now 41 percent. On civil rights, America has changed dramatically and profoundly. We believe in redemption, not just because you’re a liberal, because you’re an American.

And that — when you write off people and blame the customer, that is really bad.

To this, David Brooks at PBS added the following:

[The word] irredeemable is what leapt out at me.

And the person who was at the Emanuel Baptist — AME Church in Charleston, they believe the guy who shot and killed their close friends was redeemable, but she thinks millions of Americans aren’t?

And that speaks and I think it plays, because there is a brittleness there. And I don’t know if there is a brittleness within. I sort of doubt it. I think she’s probably a very good person within. But there has been a brittleness to her public persona that has been ungenerous and ungracious. And it plays a little to that and why people just don’t want to latch on [to her campaign].

If Hillary loses the election in November, it may very well come back to her “grossly generalistic” comments on September 9th, when she anointed herself as the judge of who is redeemable and who isn’t.


14 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton’s Deplorables and Irredeemables

  1. I think far too much emphasis on only the religious connotation of the term ‘irredeemable’ is at play here. There are many other connotations and uses for the term to lock in on the Biblical use only as the way Clinton’s use was intended.


    1. Perhaps. But redemption is such a powerful concept, such a loaded term, so suffused with Christian imagery and meaning — to choose that concept, and then to suggest some of your opponent’s supporters are “irredeemable” — it’s incredibly poor judgment (at the very least) by a seasoned pol who should know better.


    2. This proves her lack of acumen and leadership in this desperate or her normal way to denigrate political opponents. The hullabaloo about Trump’s comments are nothing when compared to these comments by Hillary Clinton, a nominee for president. Trump speech and language is totally incorrect and it is sometimes crude and sometimes misinterpreted to denounce him. A classic example is his comment that Hillary’s bodyguards disarm and there was an immediate hue and cry that his comment shows he wants her harmed. When I saw him make these comments it was evident to me it was sarcasm, which in the political correct speech that our political class, namely democrats (media is primarily democrat which is an outrage to an independent) this is not permissible and is not done. Sarcasm is not part of the lexicon of American politics demanded of the political and news elites so such comments are taken a face value and turned against someone like Trump.

      The two party system is like a disease now gobbling up the nation and holding it as its own. For many people Trump is not a “real” republican and the fact that the republican establishment has abandoned him proves it. It amazes me that Trump is considered reckless when we have Hillary Clinton voting for the Iraq War like a good compliant elitist, bungling on Benghazi, bungling on private server in her multi-million dollar home, bungling on public policy generally while her entire political party ignores everything. Only a politician can live in a vast profitable fool’s paradise of their own partisan universe.


    3. Thank you for your reasoned comment regarding the unwise reading of strictly religious connotations into political discussions. While I have no use whatsoever for either You-Know-Her or All-About-Him, I take issue with anyone who can’t resist trying to exploit unreasoning religion or “patriotism” (i.e., “Makework Militarism” in the United States) in order to score political points or deliver a moralistic lecture to those of us theologically disinterested secularists. Take the following comment from Mr Astore’s article:

      “For God, no one is “irredeemable,” nor should any person make such claims, for God’s ways are past searching out.”

      Statements of this type remind me of the famous exchange between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr regarding the Danish physicist’s Quantum Theory. Complained Einstein: “God does not play dice [with the Universe]. Replied Bohr: “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”

      As a purely logical matter, if one cannot possibly know the first thing about “God’s ways,” then how can one presume to know whether “God” finds anyone redeemable or not? Perhaps “God” finds no one redeemable. Who can say otherwise? For if one can claim to know — as Mr Astore, Mark Shields, and David Brooks do — that “God” finds everyone redeemable, then at least three people certainly know something about “God’s ways.” See the fundamental logical contradiction here?

      Additionally, I do no like words such as “victor,” which implies “vanquished.” I really don’t like words such as “ruler,” which implies “subject.” And I especially do not like words such as “lord,” which implies some sort of medieval metaphyical monarchy entitled by birth to wealth, privilege and the right to “lord it over” the great unwashed mob of ignorant serfs who make up the bulk of suffering humanity. If anyone had tried to teach me a “hymn” featuring such loaded language, I would most certainly have rebelled. Come to think of it, I did rebel, sometime about the age of twelve, when I left my last Sunday school class and never returned.

      Thank you again for raising the issue of foolishly mixing religion and politics, even if only on the verbal level. Few, if any, American politicians can resist the temptation to play priest or preacher, I know, but not all of the world’s democracies suffer from this affliction. Here in Taiwan, political leaders generally try to avoid speaking for “gods” or that kind of thing. When I told my Taiwanese wife that the U.S. Congress starts every day with a religious prayer to “the almighty” (about whom no mortal soul could possibly know anything), she told me what the typical Chinese response would be: “Do you mean to tell me that you haven’t even begun work for the day and already you have to ask somebody else to come and help you?” Beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, Mike, you argue as a non-believer. My argument is from the Christian perspective. It would be nice if religion and politics didn’t mix in the USA, but of course they do. They always have.

        Hillary knows this. Even Trump knows this. (I don’t see Trump proclaiming he’s an atheist.)

        From a Christian’s perspective: The Bible says redemption is possible. Indeed, for many evangelicals, you must be “born again” through God’s grace to attain paradise. For believers, God has revealed Himself through His acts and through scripture. To say that we can’t know God’s ways makes no sense to a believer, because God has revealed some of His ways to man, though much will always remain a mystery (past searching out).

        Of course, we’re now speaking different languages, and I don’t want to get bogged down in religious disputes. You may think all of this is dangerous hokum. So be it. This is my point: More than 90% of Americans say they believe in God. Most Americans identify as Christian. A smart politician shouldn’t use the language of Christianity (“irredeemables”) to insult and condemn potential voters by saying, in essence, that they are lost causes. It’s just plain stupid as well as arrogant and insensitive.


  2. It would seem difficult to expect a persona based in deception to go without a public appearance here and there giving glimpses of true character.
    I would hope that her election would be lost because people would “come back to” or come to the recognition of her malfeasance with regard to the dirty wars in Libya and Syria, her support for deplorable economic sanctions against populations, her untrustworthiness with regard to “trade deals”, her demonization of Russia, and many other too numerous actions that go to the heart of “character,” in my understanding.


  3. As a non-American, what seems most “irredeemable” and “deplorable is that, out of the 335 million people who make up what Lincoln called “the last best hope of earth”, the best presidential candidates you can come up with are these two! America, where have you gone?


  4. A good portion of Trump’s support base consists of ideologically committed white nationalists. To describe these people as ‘deplorable’ is overly-generous if anything. It is hardly elitist to do so.


    1. Agreed. The problem comes when you lump lots of disparate people into a “basket” of “deplorables,” after which Hillary doubled down by dismissing them as lost causes. It’s never a good idea to lump a large portion of voters together simply to dismiss them as “lost” to your campaign. Mitt Romney did it in 2012 and it cost him. It’s going to cost Hillary as well — maybe dearly.


  5. Reblogged this on Bracing Views and commented:

    It’s repeat week at Bracing Views as I attempt to process the result of this election. A big reason Hillary lost the electoral vote, I think, is Clinton fatigue. Hillary and Bill again, for another four, possibly eight, years? Didn’t we already see that show in the 1990s? Like Jeb! Bush, Hillary was a stale candidate. More of the same. Clinton fatigue was compounded by a sense of arrogance, as shown in her “basket of deplorables” comment. Want to motivate people to show up at the polls and vote against you? Talk down to them, call them names, tell them they’re beyond hope, even beyond redemption. Contempt is a powerful force, not quickly forgotten by those on the receiving end of it. (I’ve read where contempt between partners is an almost certain sign of impending divorce or breakup.)

    Combine Clinton fatigue with open contempt and you get two big reasons why Hillary faded down the stretch.


  6. They ran the wrong horse. Seems pretty straightforward to me. George Soros’ puppet. I just love watching her shoot herself in the foot. Maybe that is why she is against citizens having guns. She shouldn’t judge others by herself. Actually she shouldn’t judge others at all. The lower you are the harder it is to see and that is why her perspective is so out of whack. Evil is as evil does.


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