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In Context: Did Hillary Clinton call Wisconsin 'backwards'?
Reflecting on the 2016 presidential campaign and Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, Hillary Clinton made a comment about "backwards." Reflecting on the 2016 presidential campaign and Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, Hillary Clinton made a comment about "backwards."

Reflecting on the 2016 presidential campaign and Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, Hillary Clinton made a comment about "backwards."

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 14, 2018

Partly in an effort to boost the re-election bid of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the Republican Governors Association pounced on comments made by Hillary Clinton at a conference in Mumbai, India.

In a March 13, 2018 news release, the group claimed Clinton three days earlier called Wisconsin "backwards." And it asked: Do the Democratic candidates for governor of Wisconsin agree with her?

Walker, the group's 2017 chairman, is running for a third term as governor in 2018. 

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, did lose Wisconsin to Donald Trump.

But did she really call the Badger State backwards?

This is a case for In Context, our periodic feature that fleshes out sound bites that attract attention.

The Clinton comment cited by the GOP governors group came during a friendly question-and-answer session with a moderator after Clinton had delivered her prepared remarks at the India Today Conclave.

News accounts, including those in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and CNN, made reference to Clinton’s saying "backwards."

So, let’s get to what she actually said.

Clinton's remarks

The moderator asked Clinton:

What I’m really asking is, Is he (Trump) the symptom, or is he the disease? Is there a deeper malaise in the American society today, because it’s driven in many ways and he may be just a symptom of it; he’s not really the virus, if you like. So, what’s gone wrong in America?

Clinton responded by saying there are several big problems in America, including "a sense of being left behind in a fast-changing economy"; the "overhang" from the financial crisis between 2007 and 2009; a reaction to advancing the rights of African-Americans and others; and "the reaction against immigrants."

After speaking more about immigrants to the United States, Clinton, eventually made the reference to backwards, saying:

If you remember, Trump started his campaign attacking immigrants, because he knew that in many parts of the country -- and let me just hasten to add, in many parts of the country where there aren’t very many immigrants -- he was able to scapegoat immigrants.

Like, if you have problems, you’re not happy with your job, you don’t think you’ve gotten enough advancement, you’re working for a woman now, you don’t like it -- whatever the reason was -- he stirred that up, and anti-immigrant feeling became so virulent, thanks to his rhetoric, that it was a big motivator in a lot of the votes in certain parts of the country.  

If you look at the map of the United States, there’s all that red in the middle where Trump won. I win the coasts, I win Illinois and Minnesota, places like that. But what the map doesn’t show you, is that I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product.

So, I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving-forward, and his whole campaign, "Make America Great Again," was looking backwards. You know, you didn’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women getting jobs, you don’t want to see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are. "Whatever your problem is, I’m going to solve it."

So it was a symptom, but it was also a cause, because having someone run for president who voices those ideas, who rejects so much of the American story and our values, was also the underlying cause, as well.

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In Context: Did Hillary Clinton call Wisconsin 'backwards'?