The New Low, Notes on the Fall Campaign
The New York primary and that of other north-eastern states was a watershed moment in the 2016 Presidential campaign. Clinton won four of five contests while Trump ran the table, going five for five. To be sure, there are 10 states left, including California. But barring the unexpected, the general election will be a contest between Trump and Clinton. And as dispiriting as this choice might be; as tacky as the contest has been to date, it will only get worse. The campaign to choose the next President of the United States will soon resemble the Jerry Springer Show on steroids, a public spectacle of gutter politics, personal attacks, sleaze and innuendo.
Consider for example the recent comments of former Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner. During an appearance at Stanford University, Boehner called Republican Candidate Ted Cruz, a son of a bitch and Lucifer in the flesh.
If this is how one Republican refers to another, imagine how they feel about the opposition. And in a statement that sets the bar for tasteless political commentary another GOP Congressman said that when Trump debates Clinton, she is going to go down like Monica Lewinsky.
Never to be outdone, Trump has accused Clinton of playing the sex card to get where she is alleging [i]f Hillary Clinton was a man, I don’t thinks she would get 5% of the vote. Earlier he attacked Clinton as the enabling political spouse of a former president who abused women.
Never mind that this is a man with a documented history of misogyny, whose second of three wives accused him of rape and physical assault and who defended a former heavyweight boxing champ who was not only convicted of sexual assault but who in the middle of a losing bout bit off the ear of his opponent.
As the greatest democracy in the world, America sets the standard for democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of political power from one leader to the next. However, both candidates have high negatives, Clinton at 54% and Trump nearing or exceeding 70%. Hence, the only way to go is down. And via a combination of the candidates, an inexhaustibly supply of money, the media both new and old, as well as our unquenchable thirst for reality sleaze, we will all be dragged through the mud.
The order of the day will be attack, attack, attack and the weapons of choice will be fear, sex and scandal. Consequently, no stone will go unturned no matter how fetid, including but not limited to illicit affairs, Bengasi, e-mails, foundations and speaking fees on one hand and bankruptcies, misogyny, multiple ism and phony universities on the other.
The 2016, presidential contest further illustrates the corrosive influence of Citizens United. By holding that money is speech, the decision opened the door to super pacs and unlimited political spending.
This will be the most expensive presidential election in our nations history, with a conservative cost estimate of $3 billion. Others predict a moderate figure of $5 billion to a potential high of $10 billion. In comparison, a mere 2.6 billion was spent on the 2012 campaign. See http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/111815/how-much-will-it-cost-become-president-2016.asp. At this rate, the 2020 contest may well exceed $20 billion.
But the new low of American politics impacts far more than our pocket books. The current mud-slinging may cause many Americans to avoid the clown show altogether, to turn off and drop out, electing to stay home rather than participate in a political process which offends them. This political apathy comes at a time when America already trails many developing countries in voter participation. See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/06/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/.
And no matter the outcome, the nation will remain polarized. Regardless as to who wins, many Americans will be outraged, absolutely convinced that they have been cheated by a corrupt system and that the country is going to hell in a hand basket.
More troubling, these aggrieved voters, these voices of discontent are going nowhere. They will instead linger, an invisible yet indivisible part of the American fabric. They will fume and ruminate, their deep-seated mistrust, smoldering rage and lethal toxicity lying just below the surface, poisoning every aspect of the American experience. It is therefore no wonder that violence at political events grows more frequent, more virulent.
We are neither naive nor unduly idealistic. Politics ain’t bean bag. We therefore expect and desire vigorous, hard-fought political contests. The country has endured worse and will undoubtedly survive the current meltdown.
However, this nasty, puerile and divisive contest ill serves the nation. We cannot lecture others about the benefits of our political process and how they should choose their leaders when our’s behave like simians throwing poop at one another.
This is no way to select the leader of the free world. We deserve better. And while this three-ring circus may be fun to watch, as one insurance commercial so accurately states, there will still be pain.
If this is the best we can do, then God help the Republic.
Leo Barron Hicks, President and Founder
Blackacre Policy Foundation