By Brian McKay
It has happened. New lows have been reached and our whole system is truly threatened by it. Maybe it has lower to go. That wouldn’t be a surprise. Political dialogue is declining rapidly to the point of future presidential debates being held in an octagonal UFC ring. Maybe they will be sponsored by Monster Energy Drinks.
One could assume that the orange blob of a tweet storming entrant had much to do with the decline, but maybe it was already infecting us to some extent before, which opened the door for his ascent. He isn’t alone in the disaster that was the recent, and last, Republican debate. Further tweets and interviews this week have included accusations of Trump mob ties from Senator Ted Cruz, Trump suggesting a Hispanic judge is against him, Trump defending his use of a Mussolini quote and Senator Marco Rubio blaming the media for the rise of Trump (actually he might be right). Add in the extremely new low of that orange Trump guy criticizing physical features and it just becomes appalling.
Many say they want a candidate that speaks his mind. Who figured that speaking your mind included making fun of someone’s ears in order to reach the office of President.
The Democrats have been civil, but it seems that Senator Bernie Sanders has truly driven this year’s show of respectful debate by staying above the fray. Secretary Clinton against Donald Trump is anyone’s guess. Most likely she’ll descend to his level or close to it.
Many voters haven’t shown themselves to be above descending into the political abyss either. Physical attacks and shouting people down at Trump rallies are a scary sign. Over years the American people have lost the ability to show respect for an office when the opposing party occupies it. Shouts of “he is not my president!”, are common place.
Guess what? President Obama is your President and as much as someone like myself may detest Donald Trump, his election will have earned him the title of President Trump (shudder the thought).
Social media debates have degenerated to the point of name calling, threats and 200 post threads. Memes are created that are completely illogical, mean, bigoted and use horrific grammar. Websites are shared that display nothing but pure journalistic rubbish. Conspiracy theories have become commonplace and Hitler references have been thrown around with a frequency more annoying than when the smoke detector battery dies in the middle of the night.
It’s a disgrace.
American politics have never been perfect. Thomas Jefferson’s detractors commonly called him an atheist Satan, but in hushed tones in the political backrooms. Debate had a civility at one time. Actual policy mattered more. Just a read of the Lincoln-Douglas debates shows an elegance and civility (while debating slavery!) that has been eroded over time. One may assume that even the Mob presence in the Kennedy campaign had more respect than what we have now.
The Federal Communications Commission and two presidents share some blame in where we now sit. Until its repeal in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required that news programs cover all sides of issues of important public issues. An attempt to reinstate the doctrine by Congress was vetoed by President Reagan and threatened with veto by President George H. W. Bush. After 1987, the end of the great news journalists was near. Soon came the rise of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the like. Shouting was ratings gold! If it deteriorated into name calling the network could disavow it publicly and then high five in the station control room. It wasn’t long before CNN and MSNBC said, “Holy shit! We need a little bit of that Fox News special sauce.”
The American public saw the start of reality TV in the early 2000’s and became accustomed to regular fights, jealousy and some Rich Housewives acting like inhabitants of the monkey exhibit at the local zoo. Did we become numb? Has the constant decline in media standards helped create this result?
This reduction in standards threatens us all. The need for extreme debate precedes the need for extreme actions. Government continues to become more dysfunctional as government shut downs and 61+ symbolic votes on one issue become the new norm. This might be The Bachelor of elections now and future. “Oh! Pick me, pick me. I shut down the government!”
History says that nothing happens in a vacuum. Everything now is the result of everything before. Maybe the trash cans have become full of Big Gulp Cups over time and are now overflowing while an over caffeinated populous watches the decline.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption. He has his bachelor’s degree in political science from Gonzaga University and his MBA from Boise State University. He promises to be respectful if he ever runs for office. The zenruption team strongly doubts that will ever happen as his love of cheap beer in crappy bars might be frowned upon.