Could there be a clunkier phrase than “basket of deplorables”? Hillary Clinton’s assertion that half — or maybe something less than half — of Donald Trump’s supporters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it” struck a lot of observers as not just an odd turn of phrase but politically unwise. You attack your opponent, the idea was, but you don’t attack the voters.


But now, a few days later, the brilliance of Clinton’s remark is becoming clearer. Yes, she got a few liberal commentators to take her side and defend the substance of it. But the far bigger benefit is that in the wake of her comment, some media figures decided to devise a “deplorables” quiz for Trump supporters. Is Person X deplorable? How about Person Y? The effect was to pressure Trump supporters not only to agree with Clinton’s larger point but with her precise terminology.

That’s what Wolf Blitzer did with Trump running mate Mike Pence Monday. “There are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence who — David Duke, for example, some other white nationalists, who would fit into that category of deplorables, right?” Blitzer asked Pence.

“Well, as I told you last time I was on, I’m not really sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke’s name,” Pence said. “Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support, and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.”

“Would you call him a deplorable?” Blitzer pressed. “You would call him that?”

“No, I don’t — I’m not in the name-calling business, Wolf.”

So Pence said of Duke: “We don’t want his support, and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.” But that wasn’t enough. Would he use Clinton’s word? And when Pence didn’t — well, look at the coverage that followed:

Pence declines to call Duke ‘deplorable’ — Politico.

Mike Pence refuses to call David Duke ‘deplorable’ — USA Today.