In the bleak mid-80s, life was tough for young people in general, and in particular for those of a more sensitive disposition. Sensitivity wasn't cool. Cool was brash, buccaneering, blokey.
So when The Smiths came along, they spoke to a generation of (mostly white) dispossessed young people of a sensitive and mostly left wing bent. Their anthems to loneliness, quirkiness and being different struck a chord in many in a such a profound way that it is still ringing in their ears decades later. Their music was wonderfully refreshing (and Johnny Marr remains an untroubling hero) but it was the lyrics of Stephen Patrick Morrissey that made a lot of lonely vulnerable people going through a difficult time feel less alone.
When you find something that meaningful at such a vulnerable time, it is very hard to properly examine what it is then and to let go of it later. Which explains why some on the left are still shocked by Morrissey's blatantly racist outbursts, despite their increasing regularity.
When Morrissey was first on the scene he seemed to speak for those who saw themselves as outsiders. That led many to project onto him a belief that he would always take the side of the underdog. Add that to his militant vegetarianism (which in the 80s was very much a signifier of a broader left wing take on life) and you have an antihero for the left wing masses.
But Morrissey's outsiders were always a much smaller crowd than some assumed. He was speaking up only for a Taste of Honey version of the white working class, not for the downtrodden more broadly. His bedsitters vibe was more and more clearly becoming one with the kind of policies that would get the average B&B owner taken to court - if not yet overtly "No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish" certainly there was little celebration of the diversity of modern Britain and more nostalgia for things that never really were.
When you're a lonely outsider, it's understandable to cling to the people who made you feel less alone. But it has long been past time that the generation of Morrissey fans who continue to express shock and disappointment in our idol (and of course I count myself among this number) to not be shocked.
Maya Angelou said "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." This is not the first time Morrissey has shown us who he really is. It should be the last time what he says is considered to matter.