WASHINGTON, March 15, 2016 – There are no white knights in this election cycle. There is no leader emerging from the flames of hatred to save us from ourselves.
Instead, we have boosted a crop of violent haters, more interested in dividing than in uniting.
The debates and discussions have devolved into personal attacks, using caustic nicknames and comments on the size of hands – and other anatomy – or on clothing choices.
Hillary Clinton names the GOP as America’s biggest enemy, while the Republican contenders delightedly eviscerate one another and pump still more anger into the campaign.
Events last week in Chicago show just how low we have sunk.
Anti-Trump demonstrators invoked their right to free speech and assembly and succeeded in forcing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to cancel his rally, infringing on his right to free speech and assembly.
Violence marked the week. An anti-Trump protestor was sucker-punched by a Trump supporter. Another anti-Trump supporter broached security and attempted to attack Trump as he spoke.
How could anyone even feign surprise that this political season has turned to violence?
Trump says he does not condone or support violence. Yet his words rely a different truth. During campaign stops, he regularly orders his security to remove protestors. The problem is not their removal, but the follow-on statements from Trump. Speaking of one protestor, Trump said, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
He has also urged supporter to “knock the crap” out of dissenters” and happily noted that historically, vocal opposition “used to be carried out on a stretcher.”
Perhaps Trump does not back violent response to protestors, but supporters hear a battle cry in his words, tone and action.
Trump also justified the punch by a supporter of a protestor leaving the rally, and is “looking into” paying the legal bills of the supporter.
Equally disturbing is the aftermath of the trauma:
No one stood up to heal the wounds.
Trump could have stepped forward and shown his leadership. Instead of alienating the country further, he could have plead for calm, invited those who oppose him to hold a discussion, opened his arms to America.
But he didn’t.
His Republican opponents, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich, could have seized the moment, urging America to stand together and stop the violence. To listen to opposing sides and have a conversation, not incite a mob, and find a way to meet somewhere in the middle.
But they didn’t.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidates, had a tremendous opportunity to show good judgment and clarity. If nothing else, a clever speech-writer or advisor should have prodded the candidates to declare themselves the true leaders of peace and unity, calling for dialogue and respecting the political process and each other.
But they didn’t.
Instead, Trump pounded his chest and lashed out further, blaming political opponents and dissenters, and threatening further legal action against those who disagree.
Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, Clinton and Sanders gleefully pranced with joy, celebrating the jab at Trump. They likely giggled to their advisors, watching the carnage and speculating as to how it would impact the Florida and Ohio primaries.
No one led. No one unified. No one reminded America of the incredible uniqueness of a political system that not only allows but encourages discussion. Where everyone has a voice, and a vote, where we love our brother, respect our mother, and appreciate the gifts we have.
America is still a relatively young country, and it is one where the political system has stood strong for 200 years. We have never disrupted the peaceful transfer of power from one government to another, nor has a new administration stepped in and abrogated the decisions of previous governments.
That is because the country rests on the power of the people, the rule of law, and the ultimate decision-making of the voter.
This, however, is politics at its worse. It is the tearing, shredding and infection of the democratic process and the political system.
Shame on the political leaders for stoking this cannibalistic feeding frenzy.
And shame on America for letting it happen.