At New York magazine this afternoon, Jesse Singal argues that calling racists “irredeemable,” as Hillary Clinton did, isn’t all that helpful. She was justified in calling racism “deplorable,” and there are indeed many racists who are beyond redemption. (David Duke is obviously not going to change his mind.) But Singal notes some recent social science that suggests prejudiced people can and do change their minds when confronted with facts. Writing them off as “irredeemable” precludes that possibility, since it absolves us of any responsibility to engage them.
This gets to a broader point about Trump’s supporters. There’s no question that we should call a spade a spade. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t humans who deserve some measure of compassion from their government. Trump country is frequently poor, rural country, and the people who live there possess real fears right alongside their hate. By claiming they are beyond the pale, liberals come perilously close to promoting an old conservative refrain: some people just deserve to be poor.