Who are the deplorables?

by Heather Robinson

Last month, when Hillary Clinton described half of Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” I thought of a conversation I had had over the summer with a Trump supporter, my sister-in-law’s sister’s husband, Christopher Cochran of Gibsonia, Pa.

After an Islamist supremacist killed 49 people and injured 53 others in June, I spoke with Cochran, who is a Trump supporter, about the horror. I happened to be with him, and his and my families, on a large extended family vacation in Charleston, South Carolina, not terribly far from Orlando, Florida where the massacre took place. Seeing he was visibly upset, I asked him what he was feeling about it. The intensity of his response struck me.

He said, “I am furious. Our people are lying there dead, and they are Americans, innocent people just out to have a good time.” He added, “Our President won’t say this was an Islamist fanatic who did it.”

Cochran, 46, supports his family of wife and three children as a small business owner. He considers his family “upper middle class” and supports Donald Trump because, he says, he is hopeful that “if Trump gets in, the tax situation will improve” for people who “are not uber rich.” He also supports Trump because he believes Trump will do a better job than Clinton would of fighting terrorism, starting with identifying the enemy: radical Islamist extremists.

At the time I was struck by Cochran’s raw emotion – his grief and anger – about the shootings at Pulse. Though I know him to be a good person, because he considers himself as a conservative Republican, I was honestly a tad surprised that this particular atrocity – the massacre of mostly gay individuals at a club – seemed to be affecting him emotionally more than it was affecting the other members of our family. It’s not that I thought he wouldn’t have empathy, just that I think of him as a tough, conservative, Christian man living a life far removed from those of the people who were terrorized at Pulse; I guess I didn’t necessarily imagine he would be easily able to identify with them. I asked him about whether, as a staunch conservative, he felt any differently about the massacre knowing the victims were gay than he would have if they had not been.

He said, “I don’t care whether they are gay or not, they are Americans, innocent people just out to have a good time …  The idea that conservatives are so out of touch… There are people like that, but most of us don’t care or judge about that stuff.”

He also repeated that he was dismayed President Obama spent the first day following the massacre “lecturing Americans about Islam” instead of prioritizing grieving the loss of “our fellow Americans,” and expressed disappointment that it appeared to him Obama lacked faith in Americans’ abilities to discern the difference between ordinary Muslim-Americans who have loyalty to the U.S. versus “radicals who hate this country.”

After Hillary Clinton delivered her “basket of deplorables” remark, I called Cochran to hear what he thought about it. I reminded him of our conversation over the summer.

He said, “A guy like me who is considered deplorable –I am first one who would defend the rights of those Americans, gay or straight, black or white, against terrorists.”

I asked him to react to Hillary’s statement that, “You know, 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, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

Cochran said, “I’m sick and tired of being called a racist. I care about every American, I don’t care if they are black or white, gay or straight or what their religion is.”

He added, “I looked up the term that Hillary used—deplorable –what that really means … It  means people who have no morals or conscience, who would commit a deplorable act. I feel like liberals are trying to put me in that category because I have an opinion that differs from theirs.”

He added he believes that “there’s more respect from the right for difference of opinion and freedom of speech than left has. I mean, I believe a good person could vote for Hillary. But a lot of reporters –David Gregory—not commentators—people who claim to be journalists—they are on the air saying they agree with her [assessment].

“They throw out these terms—racist, anti-Semite, homophobic—always these words,” he said. “I am sick and tired of being called these things.”

While Cochran does dislike some of Trump’s language during the campaign, he expressed hope that Trump would “stay more on focus with his communication.”

And the disdain of some on the left, such as labeling him racist or homophobic or sexist for supporting Trump, only reinforces his sense that Trump better represents his perspective.

“That is why Trump has resonated,” said Cochran. “We are tired of conservatives being classified as racists, homophobes, of being labeled. It’s interesting: Trump is rich but speaks in a way that resonates for the common man.”

As to the charges of sexism against Trump, Cochran said, “Why would he put his campaign in the hands of a bright, smart woman who clearly has gotten him on track if he had a major problem with women?”