I’ve written that the Trump phenomenon is a dive to a lower, baser level of civic discourse. Who can we blame?
Of course there’s a lot involved. But I’ve long argued that demonization of opponents has been poisoning our politics: thinking the other guy is not merely wrong but wicked, actuated by bad motives. And left-leaners do it the most.
I often criticize their politics but believe they sincerely aim for human betterment. Unfortunately that’s not reciprocated. Typical is one blog commenter repeatedly labeling me a heartless ignorant bigot. A local columnist spews strings of vile epithets about those he disagrees with. One “progressive” I know loves calling others “regressives.” And Alan Chartock, ubiquitous head of WAMC, the local NPR station*, constantly calls people “bad.” After Justice Scalia’s death, Chartock made a point of labeling him a “bad man.”
How does this relate to Trump? As I’ve said, such hate speech has poisoned our politics – and a toxic candidate is a natural result. Trump’s shtick plays to a loss of confidence in our governing institutions and the officials comprising them. And if you keep talking about bad people with bad motives, pretty soon voters will believe it, feeding the idea that all politicians are rotten scoundrels. With Chartock repeatedly insisting even Supreme Court Justices (well, those who decide “wrong”) act corruptly and are “bought and paid for” – should he be surprised by the popularity of a candidate who assaults our governing institutions?
True, government hasn’t been performing well lately, and it’s not crazy to seek some break-out. But here again, a key reason for government dysfunction is our hyper-partisan scorched earth politics. When the other guys are demonized as bad people, how can you compromise and work with them?
Many voters feel betrayed by promises not kept. But can we blame the politicians who told them what they wanted to hear? Or the voters who wanted to hear it, and continually rewarded impossible promises with their votes? We have continually voted for expanding government profligacy, awarding ourselves a shower of goodies, with nary a thought of paying for it. That’s why the promises really cannot be kept. And it will only get worse as the fiscal imbalance ineluctably widens.
So we do need to break out of this paradigm. But unfortunately electing an ignoramus blowhard is not the way.
But meantime, even if he doesn’t win in November, Trump is showing how successful tearing up the old rule book can be. And meantime Hillary personifies all the political divisiveness I’ve written about; her presidency will just be more dysfunctional scorched earth political combat. And after four more years of that unproductive dismalness, the next Trump-like candidate may make Trump look like an angel.
* Chartock also constantly trumpets his support for Sanders. He insists that doesn’t constitute an endorsement by WAMC. But WAMC is thoroughly Chartock’s creature; and such open political partisanship is completely inappropriate for a “public” radio station receiving taxpayer funding. (Click here.)