This campaign has showed the ugly side of American politics. The nation has witnessed one of the most uncivil, destructive and poisonous elections in the history of our republic. On both sides of the aisle, politicos have utilized some of the most vitriolic tools in their rhetorical arsenal — and virtually no one is without blame.
The beating heart of the destructiveness of this campaign lies with the candidates. Trump’s vitriol is obvious — from making fun of a disabled reporter, to making disgusting remarks on Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, to attacking a Latino judge, to suggesting that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, Trump’s comments have fueled an angry revolt within the Republican Party. The Republican National Convention was marked by chilling cries to “lock her [Clinton] up!”, while Trump supporters have resorted to placing “Hillary for Prison” signs in their front yards.
Yet Trump is not alone in the world of angry rhetoric, as liberal activists have helped to ignite unruly and often violent protests. Liberal protesters have infiltrated Trump rallies, violently engaged Trump supporters, and have even attempted to physically attack the Republican nominee. And in response to these acts of aggression, Clinton and the Democratic establishment have done nothing. Their silence has effectively functioned as a terrifying stamp of approval. And now, the aggression that has been ignited by a few crazed activists and politicians has spread like a virus to the rest of the public — and everyone can see it.
As a business-minded conservative, there is no candidate that I am comfortable supporting. Trump’s reckless trade policies, foolish isolationist foreign policy and anti-immigrant message directly contradicts the basic tenets of conservatism. At the same time, Clinton’s backwards call for increased regulations, anti-trade policies and more taxes threatens to destroy our fragile economy. Finally, the third party candidacies of hippies-turned-politicians Jill Stein and Gary Johnson present unrealistic platforms that would be impossible to achieve in the current political climate. So, whenever someone asks me who I plan on voting for, I usually respond by saying, “Probably no one” — an answer that tends to make people quite unhappy.
When I tell someone that I probably won’t be casting a vote for any of the candidates, or that I’m considering writing-in a candidate, I usually receive a wave of backlash. When I tell any of my fellow Republicans this, they usually respond by insisting that a vote for no one is a vote for Hillary. I’ve been told by fellow Republicans that not voting for Trump is “uneducated” and “asinine.” Similarly, liberals tend to respond to my decision by stating that a vote for no one is a vote for Trump. They then proceed to tell me, just as the Republicans, that my decision is uneducated and reckless. A vote for Hillary, they say, is the only logical choice.
These comments show just how disgusting our politics have become. Our nation has become defined by a basic tenet: if you do not agree with someone, your ideals are uneducated and stupid. There is no room for discussion or civil debate — we simply demagogue those we disagree with and cheer those we support. Our country has descended into a thoughtless mob, where debate has died and chants, slogans and vitriol prevail.
Though this election will end in less than 80 days, we must look at the consequences of this election. What will the youth of America see as they watch this election? Will they see a vibrant debate that focuses on the issues that will come to define this nation? Or will they see men and women acting more foolish and ridiculous than the children watching them? With the adults of this country setting a dangerous precedent, we can only conclude that the future of our democracy is in jeopardy.
What we need in this election are true leaders. In 2008, a woman stood up in during a McCain-Palin rally and declared that she couldn’t support Obama because he was a terrorist. In response, McCain quickly shut down the woman by stating that while he disagreed with the then-senator, he believed that Obama was a good and decent man. Could we possibly see either Trump or Clinton doing that today? Could we imagine either of our major-party nominees standing up to one of their supporters and defending their opponent? Perhaps the question shouldn’t be whether Trump or Clinton would engage in this sort of a defense, but rather how such an act would be good for the future of our democracy.
If Trump or Hillary were willing to stand up and confront the darkest elements of their parties, we could potentially see the destructiveness of this campaign start to fade away. Instead of slinging mud, this campaign would be able to truly focus on this issues that face this nation.
Michael Glanzel is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cornell Shrugged appears alternate Thursdays this semester.