I hereby announce a reader contest to select or create the most fitting word to describe the appropriate reaction to Donald Trump’s most recent campaign outrages.
The offenses against common decency come rolling off Mr. Trump’s tongue so fast and furious that it is hard to keep up. The two that I have in mind from this week are the “Second Amendment People” comment and the “Obama founded ISIS” line from Wednesday night.
They join a long list of statements from the cesspool that individually would rank among the most offensive things ever said in a United States political campaign, and together should disqualify this particular person from even being considered for public office.
Personally, I consider both to at least come close to being incitements to political violence against specific human beings, which probably makes them worse than prior award-winning offenses, such as the Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists comments from last July and the war heroes who were not captured line about John McCain, but really, all are very, very deeply offensive.
In covering a normal political campaign, a religion-ethics blogger like me might be able to focus on the disputed social-cultural-ethical issues at play in the election, like, say, abortion, gay rights, or the death penalty. Or perhaps we could talk about the faith perspectives of the two candidates and how these shape their policies. All standard fare.
But in this election, the overriding, overwhelming, overarching story is how one of the two major political parties gave us a candidate who says the things that this one says on an almost daily basis. The offenses are so genuinely shocking that they crowd out the capacity of most of us to do anything other than respond to them — or to cover our heads with our pillows and try to drown out the noise.
I have vacillated between attempting to respond and attempting to cover my head with my pillow.
In a sense, everything I really want to say about Mr. Trump was said in a lengthy joint statement that I helped draft and was released around May 1. Here it is again. It’s named “Called to Resist Bigotry,” and the list of evidences cited there has only lengthened in the last one hundred days.
After a while, saying it again, and again, and again, seems almost to be complicit with Mr. Trump in the debasing of our public life. It would be like watching pornography over and over again and writing column after column about how debasing it is. I hope that this is my last Trump column, as I am sure some of my readers do as well.
I wish that Donald Trump would be disciplined enough or decent enough to allow us to debate some of the interesting and important issues that at one point he raised during his campaign. Trade, the erosion of America’s manufacturing base, the perception of American weakness abroad, even the way he is recasting LGBT issues in the GOP context — these are all worthy things to talk about.
And I wish that he would allow his own party and campaign breathing room to focus on the problems present in the Hillary Clinton candidacy.
Because yes, there is much to criticize in the long public life of Hillary Clinton, and certainly many particular policy issues one could take up. She was not my first choice for president this year, and I was sufficiently troubled that if the GOP had nominated a normal candidate I might well have voted for him or her. I was hoping for O’Malley vs. Kasich, if you’d really like to know.
But that is not what happened. We got Hillary versus this version of Donald Trump, who we once thought was just kind of a brash and funny businessman and reality TV star. It turned out that we got a man whose character has interacted with the hottest national spotlight in a way that has badly damaged both himself and all of us.
Grief seems a more appropriate response than anything else.