It was as if the disdain of the Left intelligentsia travelled across the Pacific, from the US to Australia, in recent days.
Last week, Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addressed a million-dollar fundraiser in Manhattan. Barbra Streisand was in attendance. Say no more.
As has been widely reported, Clinton used the occasion to depict half of the Republican candidate’s supporters as being part of a “basket of deplorables”. She accused these “deplorables” of being “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it”.
There are more than 200 million Americans eligible to vote in the November presidential elections. Even if Clinton wins, Donald Trump will obtain in the vicinity of 100 million voters. Clinton is saying that 50 million American voters are deplorables.
After a controversy erupted, the Democratic Party candidate reminded Americans that she had foreshadowed her comments by saying that they were “grossly generalistic”. You bet. However, the closest Clinton got to an apology was to declare: “I regret saying ‘half’, that was wrong.”
Clearly, Clinton still believes that many millions of Americans are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic and so on. It’s just that she is no longer estimating numbers — except to say that the total of deplorables is somewhat fewer than 50 million.
It seems that few, if any, in the well-heeled Manhattan audience realised Clinton’s error. Here was the Democratic Party candidate not attacking her (also wealthy) Republican rival but, rather, his supporters. Clinton made her claim well aware that Trump has pitched his campaign at those who regard themselves as marginalised and/or displaced in modern, globalised America. Trump is looking for support among the white middle class and working class who previously have voted for Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. But he is also hoping to get more support from African-American and Hispanic voters than was received by Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.
Clinton’s contempt for the deplorables covers Trump supporters who are less well educated and less well-off than the people she regards as, say, “acceptables”. The latter group seems to comprise her wealthy friends and Clinton admirers, including the deserving poor who live on welfare payments and food stamps courtesy of hand-outs from government.
In short, Clinton’s “deplorables” statement outs her as a left-of-centre elitist who looks down on middle and working-class Americans who believe their living standards may improve under a Trump presidency.
Cross the Pacific to Australia and a similar example of culture and elitism was evident on the ABC’s Insiders program last Sunday. In the program’s “Newspapers” segment, panellist David Marr was invited to address Samantha Maiden’s report in News Corp Australia papers that there was a dispute between some Christian groups and Malcolm Turnbull over public funding for the proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
According to Maiden’s report, a group of Christians, led by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies and the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton, claimed that Turnbull, in a meeting in February, had promised to fund both the yes and no cases. Maiden wrote that the Prime Minister’s office had declined to confirm this commitment. It was confirmed on Tuesday.
When presenter Barrie Cassidy put the News Corp report to Marr, he exploded, saying: “These are churches demanding money from government … a fundamental impulse of churches; and the other fundamental impulse is to put the boot into gay men and lesbians.” He concluded by asserting that “of course the Christians want money”.
Marr’s attack on “the Christians” was severely flawed. First, Australia’s mainstream Christian churches oppose same-sex marriage. Consequently, they do not want a plebiscite on this issue or the money that would accompany it. It’s just they prefer to have any change to the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of others, to be determined by a plebiscite rather than by politicians alone.
Second, there is no evidence that Christian churches are always demanding money from government. Take the Catholic Church. For more than a century Catholics (most of whom were not rich) donated their time and/or large sums of money to fund schools, hospitals, welfare agencies and the like. If the Catholics and other Christians had not done this, taxes would be higher or services to the poor would be significantly less than is now the case.
Third, it is a mere hyperbole to claim that it is a “fundamental impulse” of churches “to put the boot into gay men and lesbians”. It is true some Christian churches hold the view that sex outside of traditional male-female marriage is wrong. But most Christian religions believe in confession leading to forgiveness and redemption.
But it is also true that many a Christian priest or nun, doctor or nurse, can be found caring for gay men suffering from HIV-AIDS at Christian hospitals in the various Australian capital cities. It is a more demanding job to change bandages and clear bed pans than advocate gay rights from a couch.
The problem with the critiques proffered in recent days by Clinton and Marr is that both seem to have come to the view that their morality is higher than that of those they regard as poorly educated or superstitious or whatever.
As British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge wrote some decades ago, during his time in India he had seen many leprosy clinics run by Christian missionaries but not one staffed by left-wing men and women from the Fabian Society.
The problem with the Left’s contempt for groups such as the white working class (Clinton) or mainstream Christian churches (Marr) is that it neglects reality. The fact is millions upon millions of individuals desire to live in the US, despite the alleged racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamophobia (including Muslims). Clearly they are happy to live among those whom Clinton regards as deplorables.
It’s much the same in Australia. Many gay men seek refuge in Australia from persecution elsewhere, including Muslim majority nations. Clearly, they seem untroubled by the threat of having Christians “put the boot into” them, whatever that might mean.