Politicians have been bashing one another since the founding of the Republic. John Adams called Thomas Jefferson a “weakling, ‘son of a squaw’ and libertine,” while Jefferson called Adams a “hermaphrodite, fool, and tyrant.” While slamming the other fellow has been fair game in politics, it is generally believed that politicians should do their best to not slur the voters. Uniters, rather than dividers, are rewarded in American politics.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney made the mistake of insinuating that close to half the nation were “moochers” when he made the now infamous 47% comment. In fairness to Romney, those ill-chosen words were spoken off-the-cuff at a private fundraising event. He was trying to express that incumbent President Barack Obama would have the votes of those receiving any sort of monthly benefit from the US Government and that the campaign would be focused on a narrow group of undecided voters. Two lessons should have come from Romney’s indelicate comment: (1) there is no such thing as a private event anymore and (2) don’t attack the voters.
The current Presidential campaign seems to defy those maxims. Republican hopeful Donald Trump refers to foreign nationals, here illegally, as “murderers and drug dealers.” While Trump is targeting people who can’t vote for him, illegal immigration is such a hot button topic that his rhetoric excites not only xenophobes among our electorate but the newer Americans as well. The difference between Romney’s remarks and Trump’s attack was that Trump’s was purposeful. It was a strategy designed to split Americans into camps.
Not to be outdone, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton called close to half of the country “terrorists” based on the fact that they hold pro-life views. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough noted that her attack was planned:
“You know what was the most disgusting part of it? She was reading notes,” Scarborough said. “This was planned…. this is a strategy of her to engage in gutter politics to distract from the fact the FBI is investigating her, because she’s been called a liar by the American people.”
Scarborough referenced the fact that Clinton is dropping quickly in the polls because her credibility is suffering from her email scandal as Secretary of State. Clinton figures “those pro-lifers” won’t vote for her anyway, so attack them, to rile up her base and move eyeballs away from the front-page stories about her scandal. Different than Romney’s extemporaneous utterance was her planned attack on American citizens.
It won’t work. Neither Trump nor Clinton will earn their parties’ respective nominations. Both represent the worst in American politics by seeking to divide rather than unite us. Our country has an immigration problem but I attend Mass, and pray alongside pro-Life, illegal immigrants. I don’t think they should flagrantly break our nation’s laws but I know why they did it — economic opportunity, not drug-dealing or rape was their motive. Trump is a charlatan for suggesting otherwise. Similarly, Hillary Clinton is a monster to suggest that those illegal immigrants (and I) are “terrorists” for believing that Life begins at conception.
Americans really are good arbiters of inflammatory rhetoric; we generally make the right choices in elections. Trump would do well to plan his next television series while Clinton would do well to shop for accessories which match orange jumpsuits. Neither one of them has a place in our national politics.