On Sept. 9, 2016, former First Lady and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stood at the front of a campaign fundraising event in New York City and stated the phrase that would eventually be reclaimed by Trump supporters over the next eight years, through his presidency and now into his current re-election campaign.

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right?” Clinton said at the time, resulting in laughter from the crowd.

This past Saturday at the Greensboro Coliseum — less than eight years since Clinton first used the phrase — Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Trump-backed Republican running for re-election to the US House District 5 seat, recycled the term as a reminder of what the political left thinks of her and those who support Trump.

“The media can call me whatever they want,” Foxx said on Saturday. “They’ve called us deplorables, fascists, MAGA Republicans, and now they’re calling us Christian nationalists. Call me whatever you want as long as I’m on the side of President Trump against Biden and those woke Marxist Democrats.”

In a way, Foxx’s comments during the rally were some of the most insightful of the entire event, which lasted almost four hours.

In a time when political polarization in the country is at an all-time high, it’s easy to pit political opponents or even just those who vote in the opposite party as demonic, evil, idiotic monsters. And there’s no denying that Trump and his political allies have said and done things that are objectively racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic and a downright denial of many people’s basic human rights.

Still more than 5,000 supporters showed up to the rally in Greensboro this past weekend, despite the 91 criminal charges against the former president, the most significant one relating to Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Through the controversies, the Jan. 6 insurrection and the criminal proceedings, it was evidenced by the crowd that many people still believe him to be America’s savior, and that he is the best hope in preventing a second Biden presidency.

And it’s important to understand the reason why. 

Dozens of reports over the last few years have delved into the issue of growing polarization between Democrats and Republicans, between Trump and Biden supporters. In a Pew Research article from November 2020, the authors write that the “polarizing pressures of partisan media, social media, and even deeply rooted cultural, historical and regional divides” plus the country’s rigid two-party system makes politics a “zero-sum” game in which “one side’s gain is inherently the other’s loss.”

But it wasn’t always this way. As other reports show, just 20 years ago, the two political parties were much more likely to agree, or at least, be closer in viewpoint on certain stances including education, immigration and the role of government power. Of course, it should be noted that another reason why polarization has gotten worse over time is because of growing support for marginalized groups like the LGBTQIA2S+ community and support for abortion access on one end of the spectrum while the other end has gone the opposite direction.

Still, as voters head to the polls today and the November General Election just eight months away, simply lumping Trump supporters into a category of “deplorables” only furthers that polarization, diminishing any chance of a nuanced understanding of the reasons why people vote the way that they do. Because without asking the question, we have no way to start the conversation. And I don’t think we can afford to just ignore the question any longer.

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