“... I am now seasoned enough to have learned that the hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.”
So said Democrat Adlai Stevenson, then-governor of Illinois, as he campaigned for president in 1952. But America liked Ike, and Republican Eisenhower swept to victory as deftly as the general had taken Europe.
Stevenson’s words hold true today, as fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump crisscross America for the very same purpose. The words spoken in this presidential campaign, however, make it unlike any yet experienced in our Republic.
Words that convey feelings of hate and disgust. Statements of ridicule and condemnation. Remarks that intimate violence.
The gulf between reasonable political discourse and Donald Trump’s diatribe, in particular, is cavernous.
The builder of towers speaks from one of ivory, looking down at others unlike himself: people of color, people of faith, women, immigrants. Few escape his sharp tongue, and they, too, are susceptible at his whim.
Trump may rule his corporate boardroom with a me mindset, but government is not a private enterprise, it’s a public concern. And we all should be worried.
Round up the illegal immigrants and ship ‘em out, he says to a rousing cacophony from fans. Build a wall between the United States and Mexico, he encourages, with little thought to the pitfalls of isolationism.
He readily remarks on women’s looks — and belittles them. He patronized a female 9/11 survivor by praising her “smart” appearance, then offering her a job and calling her “sweetie.” He called a female lawmaker “disgusting” when she asked for a break during a court case to pump breast milk for her child.
Even children are being affected by the climate of this political season. Children self-identify through what they are told about themselves, and they are hearing words that tear at their self-esteem.
A Southern Poverty Law Center survey of 2,000 teachers to gauge students’ reaction to the campaign showed increased bullying of kids in the minority groups disparaged by Trump. Students also expressed fear about what would happen to them or their families after the election.
Trump preys on our fears, including of those who are different.
He would register Muslims, a policy reminiscent of Nazis numbering Jews. He would also ban Muslims from entering the country, closing our borders to an entire group of people because of their faith in Islam, equating them with terrorists.
He would go further. Following recent bombings in New York and New Jersey, Trump backed racial profiling, saying of police should he win election: “They see somebody that’s suspicious, they will profile.” This despite the illegality of police targeting people based on their race.
Such tactics would chisel away at the very foundation upon which this nation was built.
President Barack Obama, America’s first black president, and whose birthright Trump previously questioned, knows the danger posed by the Republican nominee’s rhetoric. Obama recently tied the upcoming election to his legacy and implored the black community to register voters and to vote, themselves, because the issues important to them were on the ballot.
Trump’s recent pitch to black voters: “What the hell do you have to lose?”
A lot — as do we all.
The danger we face is not taking Donald Trump at his word. We cannot expect he would fairly govern people toward whom he expresses so little regard.
This editorial was published by the Jeffersonville, Ind., News and Tribune.