Hillary Clinton’s ill-conceived reference to half of Trump voters as “a basket of deplorables” may have cost her the Presidency. Not all Trump voters are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, or Islamophobic – more than half are likely just desperate and tired of waiting for someone to notice. As they say, not all conservatives are racist, but most racists are conservative. It is a pretty good bet that American bigots of every stripe voted pretty unanimously for the candidate who spoke to their fear and prejudice from the podium.
Be that as it may, my purpose is not to decry baskets full of voters. No, the real deplorables are the ones now lining up to fill the power vacuum to be created by the exit of the current administration. The crowd swarming around the president-elect is composed overwhelmingly of villains who have dedicated their lives to profiteering at the expense of their fellow human beings.
A perfect example is Michael Flynn, Sr. A national security advisor should, at the very least, exemplify level-headed dedication to accurate analysis of facts in the interest of public safety. Yet Flynn, Trump’s pick for the job, is a peddler of fake news. The list of conspiracy theories Flynn has propagated includes the ridiculous lie that President Obama is a jihadist who launders money for terrorists, and the equally preposterous claim that Hillary Clinton runs a child sex-trafficking operation out of a DC pizza shop. This is what the Ten Commandments refer to as “bearing false witness”, and last Sunday, this immoral behavior nearly led to the death of multiple innocent Americans.
On Sunday afternoon, Edgar Madison Welch opened fire inside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria with an AR-15 assault rifle, weapon of choice for the US military and right-wing conspiracy theorists. Thankfully, no children were killed while enjoying a slice of pizza – but I am thankful my own children were not there to have narrowly escaped death. DC police quickly responded and took Welch into custody.
Welch, whose heart is many orders of magnitude greater than his brain, is not a deplorable man. He was motivated by anger at the idea of horrific child abuse, which indicates a good heart. Unfortunately, he was duped by the disgusting concoction of lies that Flynn actively helped to spread, and neglected to do some basic fact-checking before loading his rifle and springing to action. As a consequence, Welch came very close to becoming a mass murderer, will most likely face imprisonment, and may carry the burden of living as a convicted felon for the rest of his life.
Michael Flynn is at least partly responsible for this man’s fate. His guilt is compounded by the misconduct of his son, Michael Flynn Jr, who even after Sunday’s near-tragedy had the poor taste and worse judgement to repeat the “Pizzagate” theory through Twitter. Flynn Jr, too, was part of Trump’s transition team until he was fired following his reprehensible tweet.
Edgar Welch is a typical Trump voter: good-hearted, ill-informed and angered by injustice real or imaginary. He deserves help more than punishment, although it would be wise not to let him handle firearms in the future.
The real deplorables are the Flynns of America, who for their own personal gain spread lies designed to provoke outrage, often to the detriment of those who believe too easily. Flynn – a man who deals in lies – should never be allowed within a mile of public office, let alone be appointed national security advisor. Barring a miracle, the next administration will be a whole basketfull of such deplorables, dealing in information they know to be false, from climate change to economics. And that is deplorable in itself.