The above photo is of Hillary Clinton emerging from her daughter Chelsea’s apartment after her fainting episode on Sunday morning at a 9/11 memorial event.
What is interesting about the photo is the irony of the sign in the foreground. On it reads a well known quote from Mike Tyson. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
If the general election has been a boxing match so far, the first rounds were about even, up until the end of the Democratic convention. After that, all hell started to break loose for the Trump campaign, or at least that was the manufactured perception.
As I outlined in my recap of the summer that was in the election, the media was able to create almost constant drama over various things Trump had said, from the Khan fiasco, to the ‘second amendment people’ comment, among other things. These side issues were enough to continually distract attention from the issues at large and focus them on ‘gaffes’ which would have buried most candidates.
Trump is not most candidates, however, and as such he was able to come out the other side with minimal damage. To continue the boxing metaphor, the Clinton campaign and their sidekicks in the media got a flurry of early punches to the Trump body, but nothing that really hurt him. They expended a lot of energy in doing so, which leaves them susceptible to wearing down into the later rounds.
To be sure, Trump did change his management team, and rolled out a more buttoned up approach which still remained consistent to his views and his tone. Things were ticking along nicely for the Trump campaign, having picked up some momentum from his statesman-like trip to Mexico, his immigration speech, and his outreach to minority groups.
Then Clinton made the ‘deplorables’ comment. Speaking to a group of wealthy donors last week, she declared that half of Trump supporters could be placed into a ‘basket of deplorables.’ She said that these were the racists, sexists, homophobes, and so forth. The other half were those who she said has lost hope economically and were just hoping for a Trump miracle to save them.
In short, she declared that Trump’s support consisted of either bigots or hopeless people.
On Monday, responding to Clinton’s comments, Trump said the following in a campaign speech:
Clinton was using a very deliberate page from the Democratic Playbook – smearing someone with one of those names in order to scare them out of voting for change. She just took it to a whole new level by applying it to tens of millions of people.
She used these vile words in order to bully and intimidate honest citizens out of seeking government reform.
People who want their immigration laws enforced, and their borders secured, are not racists. They are patriotic Americans of all backgrounds who want their jobs and families protected.
People who warn about Radical Islamic Terrorism are not Islamophobes. They are decent American citizens who want to uphold our tolerant values and keep our country safe.
People who support the police, and who want crime reduced, are not prejudiced. They are concerned and loving citizens whose hearts break every time an innocent child is lost to preventable violence.
Trump captured a point which I articulated in my initial post on the subject, namely that for years the left has tried to pathologize anything that they disagree with. You simply couldn’t just be wrong if your views differed, you were somehow evil. Hillary Clinton even used the word ‘irredeemable’ in her description of some of those in that Basket of Deplorables.
Given the punishment for harboring bigoted views is generally social ostracism and ridicule, and the threshold for being considered a bigot becoming increasingly easier to satisfy, what Clinton calls for entails the ostracism of people for wanting simple things like a strong border, for example.
In other words, it is an overplay of the leftist hand, which may start to get them into trouble with everyday Americans who don’t appreciate being called a bigot just because they exist.
In attempting to deflect attention from the huge mistake Clinton made making that comment, her campaign has focused on these threads over the last 5 days:
Pepe The Frog Memes
A few days ago, Donald Trump Jr. posted this image on his Instagram:
It’s a photoshopped riff on the movie The Expendables, but what caused a stir was the green frog. That frog, is a cartoon character called Pepe. It was created back in 2008, and became an internet meme on the message board 4chan some time later, well before the campaign.
The meme has quickly spread, and it has been used in a myriad of ways. One thing about memes is that they are very much used for different purposes, by different people. Consider these Kermit the Frog memes:
The same meme, used by different people, for different reasons.
Now that you sort of understand memes, let’s look at the Pepe meme. According to the media, the Pepe meme is a ‘white nationalist symbol.’ Here’s Chris Matthews giving a news report on the Don Jr. Instagram:
While it is true that the Alt-Right has adopted Pepe, and while there are plenty of Nazi/White Nationalist themed memes floating around the internet, it is important to understand them for what they are.
Trolling, plain and simple.
This goes back to the ‘basket of deplorables’ comment, and her entire campaign before that. It has been about calling any and everyone who happens to agree with anything Trump says a bigot. The culture in general has conformed to that sort of standard, with Trump’s candidacy being such a breath of fresh air in large part because of the way it eschews politically correct discourse and sanitized ideas.
The memes are essentially saying ‘if you’re going to stand there and scream racist/sexist/homophobe all day, I’m going to give you something to actually scream about.’ Case in point:
Here we have a Pepe meme, which is a depiction of a scene from the movie American History X, about a neo-Nazi. The swastika tattoo, and the portrayal of violence against a woman combines themes like racism, sexism, and anti-semitism all into one image. It is designed to give oversensitive individuals a conniption, and if you got one from looking at that image, the image did its job. You’ve been trolled.
In the Chris Matthews clip, after he gets done, an analyst comes on and starts hyperventilating about how much of a concern it is that Don Jr. posted that meme. That exact reaction is the only reason these memes were posted in the first place. The fact that mainstream media outlets threw fits over this was exactly what the people on 4chan wanted to see. The pained reaction was the prize.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign fell right into this trap face first when her campaign officially put out an ‘explainer‘ for the Pepe memes.
It’s especially rich considering Clinton never tires of calling Trump ‘thin skinned’ and declaring that his Twitter battles may pose a national security risk.
Yet it is her campaign which has been riled up over a cartoon frog meme.
Yesterday the Washington Post did an interview with Trump, and decided to bring up the birther issue:
In the interview, conducted late Wednesday aboard his private plane as it idled on the tarmac here, Trump suggested he is not eager to change his pitch or his positions even as he works to reach out to minority voters, many of whom are deeply offended by his long-refuted suggestion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Trump refused to say whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.
“I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”
When asked whether his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was accurate when she said recently that he now believes Obama was born in this country, Trump responded: “It’s okay. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”
He added: “I don’t talk about it anymore. The reason I don’t is because then everyone is going to be talking about it as opposed to jobs, the military, the vets, security.”
Clinton got wind of the interview, because shortly after it was published, she brought it up at an event she was doing. She stated:
He was asked one more time where was President Obama born, and he still wouldn’t say Hawaii. He still wouldn’t say America.
This man wants to be our next president? When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry? Now, he’s tried to reset himself and his campaign many times. This is the best he can do. This is who he is.
The Trump campaign responded with an excellent reframe, blatantly reminding everyone that it was the Clinton campaign – back in 2008 – which first raised the questions as to where President Obama was born:
“Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joeadmits that it was Clinton’s henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump.
In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.
Mr. Trump is now totally focused on bringing jobs back to America, defeating radical Islamic terrorism, taking care of our veterans, introducing school choice opportunities and rebuilding and making our inner cities safe again.” – Jason Miller, Senior Communications Advisor
Both this and the Pepe fiasco both serve the same end. These episodes, to the extent they stick, allow Hillary Clinton to attempt use the same bigot/racist/sexist canard she was trying to use when she made her Basket of Deplorables comment. The issue she might have is that the general public may be at their wits end when it comes to this kind of thinking.
Thus far the Clinton campaign’s response to being pegged back by Trump is to double, triple and quadruple down on the ‘You’re Racist!’ argument. It is extremely weak, as none of this has anything to do with the real issues of employment, trade, the economy, national security and immigration. That Clinton is trying ever so hard to keep the discussion away from policy is telling. It suggests that Trump’s message is catching on.