American Political Tomfoolery, Part 3: Outrageous Campaigning
As the holidays approach and Congress strives to maintain its high standards of incompetence along with its penchant for accomplishing as little as possible for as long as possible, media attention draws us inexorably back into that seemingly endless morass of inanity that has become known as the 2016 Presidential Campaign. While there is a lull in the debate schedule, campaign speechifying continues unabated, as candidates (particularly on the GOP side, where the nomination seems no closer to resolution than it was last summer) search for issues or non-issues to discuss in order to gain advantage over their adversaries. The world at large obliges by continuing on its controversial path as if to provide further fodder for the politicians to discuss.
On the Democratic side, the small number of remaining candidates, the apparent desire on their part not to ruffle feathers by attacking each other, and the scarcity of national debate coverage (along with the truly stupid scheduling of debates at times guaranteeing low viewership) have led to a stagnation in the campaign. This stands in stark contrast to the Republicans’ seemingly never-ending quest to one-up their opponents when it comes to extreme positions regarding all issues foreign and domestic.
Perhaps, because PA traditionally plays such a peripheral role in the nomination process for either party (our primary is a closed one and occurs in mid-May, after most of the delegates have been chosen), my exposure to the candidates is shaped more by national media than it would be if I lived in Iowa, NH or some other early primary state, but so far I am seeing lots of bluster and little Presidential in the pontifications emanating from the mouths of the GOP candidates. The media coverage, or lack thereof, of individual candidates seems to be based more on catchy sound bites than the content of positions on issues. There is remarkably little difference among the candidates as stated by them within either party. The main differences lie between the parties, which seems to play little part in this portion of the process and only will become more pronounced once the nominees are selected.
Recent events have played a role in exacerbating the extreme positions taken by both the candidates, elected members of Congress and even state and local officials. The terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe (with a huge emphasis on Paris), along with the refugee crisis which has reached critical levels in Syria, have become big issues facing both Congress and the larger Presidential battlefield. The tendency on the part of the more outspoken (and hence more extensively covered) GOP candidates (including Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio) to preach bellicosity and a total lack of compassion for the human beings caught in the midst of the conflict seems to accomplish little more than ramping up rhetoric and enthusiasm for action among some of the more extremist elements of the body politic.
The desire among the American public to escalate the level of bombing and overall violence related to combating ISIS and other foreign terrorist groups also seems to be feeding isolationist sentiments and opposition to immigration in general. The desire to punish the perpetrators of terrorist acts abroad with more brutal bombing raids becomes a race by candidates to appear more willing to escalate the war over there, to include more American boots on the ground and risking even more intensification of the fighting involving more countries more directly than has been the case to this point. It also feeds into the bigotry that has been the hallmark of some of the ugliest campaign rhetoric to grace the American political stage in decades – courtesy mainly of Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.
Some of the positions advocated by this extreme rhetoric belie the claim that these alleged conservatives seek only the freedom and prosperity of the American people, while actually taking aim at reducing or eliminating some of our most cherished civil liberties in an attempt to achieve some unachievable illusory sense of safety and security. They also play on the fear-mongering and xenophobia that seeks to keep out immigrants because they steal the jobs of Americans or comprise a danger to our personal safety. We can’t possibly guarantee that a terrorist won’t be allowed in with those who are truly refugees being terrorized in their own country, so we have to keep them all out. State governors are trying to say “Not in my backyard”.
That this rhetoric scapegoats “other” people while neglecting the fact that more of us have been killed since 9/11 by domestic terrorists, mass murderers or others (who probably should have and could have been prevented from doing so had more reasonable precautions been made to keep them from using guns) than have been killed by foreign terrorists. The NRA even prides itself on opposing politically with its full might a law designed to prevent suspected terrorists from legally obtaining guns in this country to kill us with. Meanwhile, a lone American gunman, possibly fueled by alleged “Pro-Life” (which in reality just means pro-birth) propaganda attacks a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and kills three people with nary a comment from the politicians spouting the sort of inflammatory rhetoric which stirs up such violence to begin with.
The fact that the feedback these politicians are getting in the polls for advocating such reactionary tactics as special IDs for members of certain religious groups and security measures more reminiscent of authoritarian dictatorships than elected democracies seems to encourage them to continue on that path is becoming disheartening to many of us. Trump and Carson can seemingly spout the most outrageous falsehoods and not suffer in terms of their popularity in the polls. Maybe this situation will change once votes start being counted in early states and money starts drying up for more of the candidates.
I would hate for us to face a situation where we must vote for the lesser of two evils next November in order to temporarily stave off the disaster promised by the only other contender with a chance of winning. It’s beginning to look like we might. The nearly total lack of any limits to political contributions and dark money, the incessant gerrymandering to maintain minority control of state legislatures and Congress and the increased ability being given to the states to prevent larger and larger numbers of people from voting promise to make our next elected government even less representative of and less concerned with serving OUR interests vs the interests of the wealthy elites than our current one is. Not voting when one can, for whatever reason, only makes the problem worse.
I urge everyone to carefully listen to what these candidates are saying and consider the implications of the policies they are recommending. Bigotry, hate and advocating war or other forms of violence and subjugation of the will of the many to the vagaries of the few will not lead to an improvement in the human condition, either here or anywhere else in the world. Escaping from freedom into the arms of authoritarianism will not yield true progress, safety or security, but their exact opposites. Demand democracy to stave off the threats posed by the demagogues.
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