In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama claimed that small-town Americans in the Midwest are benighted hicks. "It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," he said. This received attention from the conservative press, but was downplayed by the mainstream media, or brushed off as accurate.
This weekend, Hillary Clinton echoed Obama. She said: "To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic -- you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that." The other half of Trump supporters, Clinton said, are little better: "But that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. ... Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well."
Clinton's language is far more telling than Obama's. Democrats routinely see voters they don't understand as morally deficient. That provides them the comforting illusion that disagreement reflects lack of virtue. And that means that their policies need not succeed -- success or failure is irrelevant to the ethical question of how to vote. Good people will vote for them regardless of track record, while bad people will oppose them.
But Clinton's language goes further. Where Obama simply labels his opponents as bad guys, Clinton suggests that Romney was right: Those who are her potential supporters are pathetic losers waiting for government to save them. They are disappointed with the economy. They think the government must do more. They just need some tender, loving care from Clinton, and then they'll realize that Trump isn't the man for them.
This means that the sneering tone so many people detected in Romney exists among Democrats for their own constituents. Clinton doesn't label her potential voters self-sufficient Americans seeking an equal opportunity. No. They're grievance-mongers, ne'er-do-wells and people who believe they are victims, who believe government has an obligation to take care of them. And she thinks she can draw them to the Democratic Party.
So, where are all the good Americans? To Democrats they don't exist. There are just the deplorables and the needies -- and the elites who control them. That's the scariest thing about the Clinton vision for America. Nobody deserves freedom because nobody wants freedom. Everyone is either a racist or in need of saving; everyone needs a cure, either of their soul or their material well-being. And Clinton thinks she can provide that cure, by crushing half of Trump's supporters and co-opting the other half.
She's only missing one thing: Most Trump supporters, and most Americans, aren't bitter clingers or victims. They're independent human beings, waiting for a candidate who wants to grant them that independence -- if any elite is willing to stand up for it.