How well have the efforts by Democrats and the media to scold Donald Trump over his use of the word “animals” succeeded when describing the murderous gang MS-13? About as well as one would expect outside of their bubble. A new poll from Harvard and Harris shows that a solid majority believe that “animals” is indeed a fair description for gangs that rape, kill, and butcher their victims, and aren’t all that concerned over “dehumanizing” them either:
A majority of Americans in a new poll believe it’s fair to characterize members of the MS-13 gang as “animals,” according to the survey taken after President Trump faced controversy for remarks during an immigration meeting.
Fifty-six percent of American adults in the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll said referring to members of the gang as “animals” is fair, compared to 44 percent who said the characterization was unfair.
A slimmer majority, 52 percent, added that comments that “dehumanize” members of MS-13 are acceptable.
The Hill doesn’t provide any demographics on this question, but it’s safe to say that a 56/44 split probably includes a significant number of independents and even Democrats. Harvard/Harris will release the data sometime next week, but the political demos seem in pretty good balance overall, with a D/R/I of 37/32/29.
Besides, the poll’s other results indicate a rather broad consensus on a moderate position on immigration. For instance, nearly two-thirds would approve of a bill that gives a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers in exchange for a border wall and the changes to immigration policy Trump has demanded. It’s a deal that could have been made months ago, and is still entirely possible to this very moment. If both sides compromised enough to cut the deal, it would appear to benefit everyone, at least for the two-thirds of Americans not on the fringes of public opinion.
On the top-line question, it’s not tough to imagine that the majority might have been even higher had the question been asked in the absence of any Trump comments. Whether people like to admit it or not, we often turn to metaphors to describe people who commit offenses, whether it’s to call them Nazis, animals, monsters, demons, and so on. No one means that literally (or at least few do); the “animals” metaphor is intended to convey a depth of depravity and inhumanity that frankly might not encompass all of MS-13’s repertoire.
That’s what made this nonsense from Trump’s critics on this particular point so tediously pedantic and condescending. Trump has painted a very broad brush when it comes to discussing illegal immigrants in the past, so the criticism isn’t entirely without basis in general. However, to scold him over the “spark of divinity” when speaking about a specific gang of terrorists responsible for hundreds of murders in the US, many conducted in brutal fashion, is about as large a cultural disconnect as one can imagine. The primary role of government — indeed, its best argument for existence — is public safety, and MS-13 represents a significant and brutal threat to that in some American communities. People want leadership that will call out real threats, not offer politically correct and pandering nonsense in minimizing them. They’re not concerned about metaphor choices.