Her comment about half of Trump's supporters occupying a "basket of the verbal nails in his coffin.deplorables," as if they're squatters in some leaking backwoods shanty, might just have been the straw basket that broke the Democrat's back. If not for that phrase, we might now be pointing to Trump's ridicule of a reporter with a disabling condition, or his tweets about the Khan family, or half a dozen other demeaning comments he made as
But regardless of the outcome, what strikes me in the aftermath of our November surprise is not just that politics is nasty, boorish and interminable, but that if political campaigns were businesses, they'd fail miserably.
Anyone with a business -- one that relies on building a customer base -- knows better than to disparage people who prefer a competitor's products over theirs. They would never think of it, because they see every person who currently chooses a competitor's products as someone who could someday be persuaded to choose theirs.
Can you imagine Chevy managers dismissing people who buy Ford trucks? Or students in a classroom at McDonald's Hamburger University mocking the fans of Wendy's Baconator? Of course not. Even when businesses' marketing campaigns involve competitors' customers, such as in the classic Macs vs. PCs ads, the message is designed to lure the other side, not repel them. (And when it comes to political ads, Reagan's memorable "Morning in America" was one of the very few to get the message right.)
In a business with both customers and competitors, a big part of every day is spent trying to identify what people prefer about a competitor's product and how to win those people over to yours. So at Chevy headquarters, they look at what leads potential Silverado customers to purchase the F-150 instead. And students at Hamburger U. discuss what it is that people like about the Baconator, and how McDonald's can beat it. Wendy's the company may be fair game for putdowns, but never Wendy's customers, even behind closed doors.
Clinton's ill-conceived September remark at a fundraiser was immediately recognized for the gaffe it was, and not just by the so-called "deplorables" themselves, who turned it into a badge of honor. Clinton publicly acknowledged she'd misspoken, while privately admitting she'd "stepped in it." Yet blunders like that, spoken in front of friendly audiences, are a regular campaign occurrence now that every smartphone is equipped with a mike, and unlike photos, no app has been developed that can cast them in a rosy glow. Whether it's Romney's 47% or Obama's "guns or religion" -- or Trump's very public remarks about Mexicans and Muslims, and his backers' murky denunciations of the liberal elite, the foul undercurrent of us vs. them always comes to the surface, because it permeates politics.
People accuse the business world of being cutthroat, and in some respects it certainly can be. But compared to politics, business is a kinder, gentler world. It's like afternoon tea and polite conversation on a manicured, sun-dappled lawn.
Politics is like a food fight where everything is rancid. No wonder it turns so many stomachs.