Where Hillary Clinton went wrong was not the analysis of Trump’s supporters, which is spot-on. Nor the description “deplorables” for the bigots, which is fair and she now owns, nor even the “half” she apologised for, which is near enough accurate. It was in talking about them in the third person. They are American citizens, whom (holding her nose) she will have to serve and protect as President.
She should address them directly. It’s a tough challenge. Suggestions below; commenters please add more.
I would like to address the part of Donald Trump’s supporters whom I described as “deplorables” : the racists, white supremacists, Islamophobes, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, and conspiracy theorists. You are, I’m sorry to say, my fellow American citizens. I don’t take back the label. But if and when I am elected President by the votes of other Americans, the Electoral College, and the grace of God, I will swear to serve all Americans, including you. So please hear me out.
I have made hundreds of speeches during this long campaign and will make many more. In the normal run of things, I talk to those who already support me, to encourage them to vote for me, Tim Kaine and other Democrats, and help others to vote; and to the undecided, in hopes they will come to do so on election day. Your votes I do not seek, and would treat them as a dishonour. I utterly reject your bigotry.
But, I repeat, as President I would be President of all Americans. It would be my solemn duty to protect even your constitutional rights and to “faithfully execute the laws”. I would defend your rights to assemble and peacefully express your opinions, however hateful I find them. I would protect your right to bear arms – in a well-regulated way that keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and nutcases, and sensibly limits their lethality.
The other side of the coin is that the laws will be enforced. Intimidation of others by weapons, threats to law enforcement officers, direct incitement to violence, illegal occupation of national parks and other public lands, threats to abortion clinics and attacks on their staff, discrimination against other Americans on grounds of their gender or skin colour: these and similar behaviour are crimes and it will be my duty, as that of any President, to enforce the laws against them. You have been warned.
It is far from your worst offence against decency, but one I find particularly irritating, that some of you have hijacked the lovely term of “sovereign citizen” for an absurd doctrine of self-exclusion from the rule of law, a radical Wild West anarchism. Let us claim it back. The American people are indeed “sovereign citizens”: our great Constitution has made us so, and together – together – we make the laws that govern us under it, and our children and aliens within our jurisdiction. That is the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance. “Sovereign citizens” has no singular form.
That is what I have to offer you, and it is not negotiable. Nothing you can do will make me change these views, for they are not political options or policy choices but what I see as fundamental principles of the American state. What, then, can I ask of you?
To stay home on election day. Consider this. You support Donald Trump because you think he shares your repellent values and would as President deliver on your hateful agenda. Really? When did Mr Trump deliver on any important promise? I can’t recall any occasion. His business and political career has been one shell game after another. Does he really share your values? I don’t accuse him of being a real bigot, just a perfectly hollow man without any convictions except in his own genius, an echo chamber that reshapes itself to play back exactly what his audience wants to hear.
Have you noticed his secret plans? He has a secret plan to defeat ISIS. This turns out to be ordering the Pentagon to produce one. He has a secret plan to make Mexico pay for a huge wall along our southern frontier, though the President of Mexico told him it would never do so. He has a secret plan to bring back jobs to miners and steelworkers. He has a secret plan to expel millions of illegal immigrants with criminal records on his first day of office. Ask him for details, and he changes the subject to a different secret plan. You have seen conjurors at fairs: we are taken in by misdirection, one hand flamboyantly attracts our attention while the other makes the switch unobserved. Trump is a master conjuror. He pulls one rabbit after another out of his orange top hat, then they disappear in a puff of sparkly smoke. If I were a bigot like you, I would not trust him to deliver anything. Whatever your beliefs, he just isn’t worth voting for.
I forgot. There is one other promise he made. That was to delegate the actual work of running the country. He does not expect to show up for work at 8:30 every day, but to sleep in, then swan around looking “Presidential” and providing “Leadership”, in quotes, from more top hats and white rabbits. On this one, you and I can trust him absolutely.