I’m an experienced political columnist who’s written two posts a week for Contemptor throughout the summer. I’ve been at this with one media outlet or another, for six years. While I love following the evolution of our democracy, this decade has been a slog in so many ways.
The midterm elections of 2010 and the rapid rise of the Tea Party brought a lot of bizarre, embarrassing truths to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. Among others we learned that some hate the President and oppose every single facet of his agenda simply because of a foreign-sounding name and his skin color. Birtherism was portrayed by a powerful political segment – and its media apparatus – not as the crazy talk it is, but as a valid platform attack. It’s been disgraceful over the years to watch a dignified, intelligent, American public servant “othered” by well-heeled, supposedly literate Washington.
Racism also permeated President Obama’s second-term re-election challenge from Mitt Romney. Mittens gratefully accepted a 2012 endorsement from the godfather of birtherism – Donald J. Trump. Although the former Governor seems proud of his Trump repudiation in 2016, it’s far too late for him to play the moral hero. Seeking the blessing of a racist, showboating moron for the craven purposes of furthering a political campaign leaves one with a permanent stench. It can be no other way. As James Carville recently wrote for the Media Matters blog, “There’s [a] difference between being birther and flat-earther. It’s possible to believe the Earth is flat and not be a bigot, but it’s impossible to be a birther and not be one.”
In the stunning span of eight years we’ve watched the Republican Party morph from the compassionate conservativism of George W. Bush, which extolled cooperation and love with Muslim communities and the passing of comprehensive immigration reform, into the party of abject, unapologetic hate. I am far from the only columnist to marvel at time’s ability to soften the comparative image of the worst president in modern history. As The Week’s Paul Waldman wrote in February, “Not only are today’s Republicans ambivalent about his legacy, they’ve moved so far to the right in the last eight years that beside them, Bush’s time in the White House seems like a model of reasonable, moderate policymaking.”
The last three national election circles have begotten horror and soul-searching in a country that still mostly believes in freedom and opportunity for all. President Obama’s job approval rating is above 50 percent and rational Americans do not doubt his citizenship or love of country, even those that disagree on policy. But the most disgusting feature of 2016 is that the dialogue is not controlled by the sane and balanced. In fact, reality has been skewed to such a degree that Hillary Clinton can call out Donald Trump as a documented, dangerous and divisive bigot and somehow this important conversation is distilled by the media as mutual, ugly campaign rhetoric. Say what?
I have to tell you Contemptors. Sometimes it’s demoralizing to soldier on, chronicling a tire fire of a presidential campaign, frightened that poll numbers are not in favor of Clinton 95 percent to 5. Because seriously, imperfect a candidate as she may be (they all are), Clinton is so far superior to her opponent in intellect, humanity and experience, it’s insulting to compare the two. How is this election not over in all meaningful ways?
But it’s not. We have more than two months to go and all of us – including members of the media – must remain vigilant and committed. Eat those Wheaties. Meditate after Trump’s latest press conference. But keep talking and listening, no matter how frustrating, because it’s certain the alt-right would love for us to give up.
The Trump campaign is literally ready to do battle all the way through November 8 in the name of “Making America Great [White] Again.” As NPR’s Pam Fessler reported earlier this month, Trump Calls On Supporters To Monitor Polling Places On Election Day. Two rhetorical questions:
- What do you suppose is the dominant demographic makeup of these poll patrollers?
- Who do you think they’re looking to screen during an exercise of constitutional rights?
Trump has already planted the seed that the only way he loses in certain states (specifically Pennsylvania) is if “cheating” occurs. If this were fiction, it might be hilarious that Trump’s new campaign chief, the upstanding citizen known as Steve Bannon, is himself the suspect of voter fraud. But I’m not laughing. Because as Fessler correctly observes, “Most election experts dismiss Trump’s claims that people can vote five, 10 or 15 times at the polls. Not only is it almost impossible to do. There are very few proven cases of in-person voter fraud.”
The brazen encouragement of voter intimidation should receive far more press than it has to date. It’s easy to follow the shiny objects of outrageous commentary that emerge from Trump’s mouth on a near daily basis. But we’ve seen all we need to see from Trump’s campaign events and rallies to know how dangerous Election Day could be for dissenters (non-whites, women et al). If we don’t call attention to thinly-veiled civic threats because we’re just too tired from all the bullshit, Trump has already won.