I remember the 2008 Presidential election cycle with mixed emotions, most of them positive. I was a California State Democratic Delegate who was going to vote for either the first African-American candidate or first female candidate. This was enormous, something that my grandparents never got to see.
It was a contentious primary with many divided allegiances and feelings. I saw the strong relationships of my beloved Young Democrats fracture in picking sides. Some of these friendships did survive. Others didn’t.
Once we moved from the primary to the general election, I feared the worst: would some radical do something to hurt Barack Obama and/or his family? How much would racism rear its ugly head? If elected, would he survive his term(s)?
But there was another feeling I experienced during that cycle: smugness. Yes, smugness. Why? Because members of the establishment (Dems and Republicans alike) got to work digging up anything negative they could find to discredit him. The typical stuff: post-marital affairs, illegitimate children, financial mismanagement, drug abuse, whatever dirty laundry they could find. By political standards, he was squeaky clean.
In the end, the biggest vices they found were (1) he smoked cigarettes and (2) he was a little young in the job. There are others that would later create an issue, known as the Birther Movement. Sad.
The result: since his election, Republican members of the US House and Senate open declared they would go against him, no matter what. They kept that promise this entire time, and yet they’ve been elected back into their roles even though their resistance meant that little could and would get done based on having a temper tantrum that their person didn’t get elected, despite their best efforts to discredit Obama.
Fast forward to this cycle, and the canvas is vastly different. Of the two major parties, one candidate has no legislative experience, is extremely polarizing and has questionable attributes that an entire base is willing to overlook. The other candidate is tied to unfortunate incidents and is married to someone known to be both a great President and a great philanderer.
In theory, neither one of them should have made it this far. Republicans consistently wave the Family Values flag (though tend to have a ‘do as I say not as I so’ mentality), yet their nominee is so far on the other end of that spectrum. Yet, they’re willing to overlook it just for the sake of having one of their own in office. Democrats want to keep the Oval and make history (again!) at the same time, even though it means having to relive the lowlights of the Bill Clinton era.
This ends up being the basis of my ‘All Things Being Equal’ theme. Where my conservative friends (I have a few) defend Drumpf’s questionable behavior of the day, I pose this question: ‘If Hillary Clinton did/said the same thing, would your response be the same?’ I flip that question around for my liberal friends (fewer than I used to have) as well. I’m usually met with silence, a change of topic or a flat out ‘What difference does it make?’
It’s the last response that troubles me, because it makes all the difference in the world. It’s that sliding scale of permissibility that feeds discourse, distrust, and overt racism. It’s an uncomfortable comment to make, but doesn’t make it any less true. When one is willing to overlook moral (and even legal) atrocities for the sake of having their person in power. All for the sake of a win.
We have campaigns about anti-bullying for our children and young people in general, yet it’s being applauded in the election. How does that work?
Sadly, I fear things will get worse before it gets better. Should Hillary Clinton wins, will see be met with the same overt rebellion from our state level elected officials that President Obama has endured since Day 1? Should Donald Drumpf win, will the Republicans really get what they want?
In the end, we all lose if this mindset continues to be permissible.