This Presidential Election Reflects The Dumbing Down Of America More Than Anything Else

09/28/2016 12:16 pm ET | Updated Sep 29, 2016

Dan Rather conveyed the realities of the 2016 presidential election on September 26, 2016, when commented as follows:

Ladies and gentlemen, whatever civility once existed in our politics is tonight officially dead....

Clinton was clearly the policy expert, nimbly jumping from topic to topic, policy to policy. But she was also much more able to paint a big picture than I have seen in times past. I thought she was particularly effective on the issue of race and especially the birther lie against President Obama. She had the facts on her side, but also it was an effective appeal to fire up her base....

Our Founders believed in reason and the power of intellect. Donald Trump made clear tonight by his wilful ignorance of important issues that he does not. Our founders feared the accumulation of power, they loathed vanity, and tried to build in protections against the demagogues who would appeal to mankind's basest instincts. Donald Trump relishes in all of these impulses. For him they are instinctual and a prescription for success.

To call Trump a con man, as many have, is a disservice to the art of the con. By its definition a con requires deceit. But Trump has not tried to hide his lies or the sheer unrealistic audacity of his cartoonish policy positions. He has asked the American people to bet on him. The fact checkers will certainly weigh in. The pundits will have their say. But the voters have all the information they need. The judgement is in their - or more accurately our - hands.”

This election cycle reflects the harsh reality that the dumbing down of America may have passed the point of no return. Anti-intellectualism and denial of reason permeate our society.

There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.... There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America, unlike most other Western countries.”

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us….

Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall….

An anti-intellectual society, however, will have large swaths of people who are motivated by fear, susceptible to tribalism and simplistic explanations, incapable of emotional maturity, and prone to violent solutions. Sound familiar?...

And even though it may seem counter-intuitive, anti-intellectualism has little to do with intelligence….

What Americans rarely acknowledge is that many of their social problems are rooted in the rejection of critical thinking or, conversely, the glorification of the emotional and irrational….

The impact of fundamentalist religion in driving American anti-intellectualism has been, and continues to be, immense.”

If Donald Trump wins the 2016 presidential election, it will be the result of the dumbing down of America, and nothing more.

For example, one reason people convey for voting against Hillary Clinton is Benghazi.

However, while that was “one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi [found] no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead….

But the lack of any clear finding of professional misconduct or dereliction of duty was certain to fuel further criticism of the length of the investigation — more than two years — and the expense, estimated at more than $7 million. It also bolstered Democrats’ allegations that the inquiry was specifically intended to damage Mrs. Clinton’s presidential prospects….

At the time the select committee was created, there had been at least seven congressional inquiries into the Benghazi attacks in addition to the State Department’s review, with all of them reaching much the same conclusion.

As if that weren’t enough, “seventy-five former U.S. ambassadors have signed a letter endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, warning of the damage that Donald Trump’s foreign policy ’ineptitude’ could cause in the world.”

Benghazi involved the attack of the American embassy in Libya, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, whose family doesn’t hold Clinton responsible and has stated in no uncertain terms that she should not be blamed for Benghazi.

The Benghazi committee’s conclusion, the fact that Chris Stevens’ family doesn’t blame Hillary Clinton for Benghazi and the fact that at least seventy-five former U.S. ambassadors are endorsing Clinton should have made Benghazi a non-issue at this point. Unfortunately, due to the dumbing down of America, it’s not.

Of course, there’s also the Clinton email scandal.

On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said, “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case…. We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts…. We are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate.”

Nevertheless, “most Americans disapprove of the FBI’s recommendation not to charge likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over the private email server she used as secretary of state, and a majority also said the issue makes them worried about what she’d do if elected, according to a poll released Monday.”

That’s just too damn bad! Since when did the citizens of the United States understand our criminal justice system? For goodness sake, most of them don’t even understand basic civics.

To those of you who are disappointed that Hillary Clinton is not being criminally charged, I’m sorry that the facts didn’t support such charges. I’m sorry that you have such bias against Hillary Clinton that you want her criminally charged even though “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case on these facts.” Furthermore, “there is no evidence [that hacking attempts on her server] were successful.”

As the Washington Post has acknowledged, “the Hillary Clinton email story is out of control.” Furthermore, Hillary Clinton cannot undo the past. She has, however, taken responsibility and learned from the experience. During the first presidential debate, Clinton once again acknowledged having made a mistake. She also said, “And if I had to do it over again, I would, obviously, do it differently. But I'm not going to make any excuses. It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.”

Let’s not forget the “pay for play” scandal involving the Clinton Foundation. “There's no question the optics are bad for Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. But no proof has emerged that any official favors — regulations, government contracts, international deals — were curried in exchange for donations or pledges.”

As CNN has reported, “While both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump used their foundations to enhance their extensive networks of relationships, it seems that only Mr. Trump treated his foundation as just another pot of money he could draw upon whenever there was any type of "charitable" connection and even when the primary beneficiary of the foundation's spending was himself or his businesses. This is where the Trump Foundation appears to have crossed into illegality, as the Post indicates, while the Clinton Foundation did not.”

According to Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor of U.S. News & World Report, “While Trump and the right wing noise machine have made the Clinton Foundation synonymous with modern political corruption, like so many Trump charges these seem to be more about hiding the former reality TV star's faults by projecting them onto someone else.”

"Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against ‘self-dealing’ — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses….

If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.”

The shady and blatantly illegal activities involving Trump most certainly don’t end there.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval.”

Trump belongs in prison for tax evasion, like Al Capone. His misuse of his "charitable" foundation's funds to settle personal lawsuits is more than ample reason. Unfortunately, “though it has long been illegal for corporations to spend money in Cuba without proper authorization, there is no chance that Trump, the company or any of its executives will be prosecuted for wrongdoing. The statute of limitations ran out long ago, and legal analysts say Office of Foreign Assets Control’s enforcement division is understaffed, so the chances for an investigation were slim even at the time.”

Regardless, there are important reasons why conservative papers have been endorsing Hillary Clinton for President.

Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer endorsed Hillary Clinton on Friday afternoon, joining the Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle among the ranks of newspapers with conservative editorial boards that have spurned Donald Trump and backed his Democratic rival instead.

Trump is still without a daily newspaper endorsement in the general election, though many publications have not yet declared their support.

For the Cincinnati Enquirer, endorsing Clinton meant breaking with longstanding tradition, as its editorial board noted:

The Enquirer has supported Republicans for president for almost a century — a tradition this editorial board doesn't take lightly. But this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times. Our country needs calm, thoughtful leadership to deal with the challenges we face at home and abroad. We need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst.

That's why there is only one choice when we elect a president in November: Hillary Clinton."

To add insult to injury, during the first presidential debate, Donald Trump essentially admitted that he pays no federal income taxes, which he said makes him smart.

He also said that many NATO countries “aren’t paying their fair share... and that bothers me, because... they are supposed to be paying by treaty and contract.”

The fact-checkers said that other NATO countries do pay their fair share.

Irrespective, by his own reasoning, he either needs to pay his fair share of taxes or those NATO members not paying their fair share are smart (even though he's apparently incorrect that they aren't paying their fair share).

Which is it, Donald Trump?

As Clinton noted, “If you have paid zero, that means zero for troops, here for vets, zero for vets, zero for schools or health.”

It's not "patriotic" for those who have benefited the most from American policies to pay no income taxes.

For goodness sake, how much taxpayer money has been spent on annual audits of Donald Trump's tax returns? I’d say quite a bit, considering that his tax return is 12,000 pages long, according to Donald Trump Jr.

Furthermore, as Trump said during the debate, “I have been under audit almost for fifteen years.”

How much taxpayer money has been spent on the great many lawsuits in which Trump has been engaged in his lifetime? There have been “about 3,500 legal actions involving Trump.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump wants to further lower the tax rate for the highest income earners and most wealthy. “The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s tax cuts are the wealthy. The top 1 percent of earners see their after-tax income rise by between 10.2 percent and 16 percent.” He also wants to eliminate estate taxes that don't even apply unless a couple leaves their children in excess of $10.9 Million.

When those with the highest incomes and greatest wealth don't pay income taxes and cost the government a great deal of taxpayer money paid by "others", that's not patriotic -- that's what's wrong with America.

As Clinton said during the debate, “the kind of plan that Donald has put forth would be trickle-down economics all over again. In fact it would be the most extreme version the biggest tax cuts for the top percents of the people in this country than we've ever had. I call it trumped up trickle-down because that's exactly what it would be.”

Considering Donald Trump’s usage of our governmental resources and the fact that “others” are paying for it, the number of people and businesses who have received pennies on the dollar for their goods and services because Trump has “taken business bankruptcy six times”, or otherwise stiffed them.

Considering the number of Trump’s businesses that have failed, obviously being a good businessman is a matter of perspective.

As John Oliver said, “each campaign ’has been dominated by scandals, but it is dangerous to think there is an equal number on both sides.’ He adds: ‘You can be irritated by some of Hillary’s, that is understandable. But you should then be fucking outraged by Trump's.’"

And, as John Dean, a Justia columnist and White House counsel to President Richard Nixon said, “For almost 40 years, I have been following Hillary Clinton’s scandals, with claims of her allegedly unethical when not criminal behavior. Consistently, the charges have been all smoke and no fire.”

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

Don't expect people to give what they don't have.

For what it’s worth, it's not that Trump’s supporters want change; rather, it's that they are unwilling to change. As such, they want to undo changes made over a great many years that go against their religious or otherwise limited worldview.

Regardless of how you feel about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, he was spot on when he said, “He always says, 'Make America great again.' Well, America has never been great for people of color and that's something that needs to be addressed. Let's make America great for the first time."

The same is true of the experiences of others who fall outside of the dominant culture in the United States.

This is why white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other such people flock to him like there's no tomorrow. "Trump's rise draws white supremacists into political mainstream: 'I am winning,' says David Duke"

According to Brene Brown, Ph.D., the more your perspective is in line with the dominant culture, the less you were probably taught about perspective taking, something normally taught or modeled by parents. In the United States, the majority culture is white, Judeo-Christian, middle class, educated, and straight.

Dr. Brown contends that we can’t take off the lens from which we see the world. We all view it differently, based on our information, insight, and experiences. She suggests that perspective taking is listening to the truth as other people experience it and acknowledging it as the truth. What you see is as true, real and honest as what I see, so let me be quiet for a minute, listen and learn about what you see. Let me get curious about what you see. Allow me to ask questions about what you see.

According to Dr. Brown, perspective taking is the core of empathy, which is skill set. It also happens to be incompatible with shame and judgment. Staying out of judgment requires understanding.

As Eric Maddox has said, “Good listening is paramount to successful communication, and you can’t be a good listener if you don’t have empathy. And, empathy is to listening as water is to the human body. It’s everything.”

Maddox is credited with gathering the information that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein—an accomplishment that earned him several awards, including the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement and the Bronze Star. With these accolades in hand, Maddox moved on to become the first civilian interrogator at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, until he retired in 2014. Today, he trains clients worldwide in the art of effective negotiation and information gathering.

This is entirely consistent with the following statement made by Thomas B. Colby in his article titled In Defense of Judicial Empathy:

"Empathy involves the cognitive skill of perspective taking—the ability to see a situation from someone else’s perspective—combined with the emotional capacity to understand and feel that person’s emotions in that situation."

Interestingly enough, empathy is the key to conflict resolution or management and the lack of empathy leads to a great deal of conflict.

This all ties in with the following information conveyed by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith:

What are Chronic Conflicts?

Chronic conflicts are those that nations, societies, organizations or individuals

•Have not fully resolved

•Need to resolve in order to grow and evolve

•Are capable of resolving

•Can only resolve by abandoning old approaches and adopting new ones

•Are resistant to resolving because they are frightened, dissatisfied, insecure, uncertain, angry, or unwilling to change

Features of Chronic Conflict

Chronic conflicts can often be distinguished by their:

•Repetition

•Low levels of resolution

•Incongruity between high level of emotion and apparent triviality of the issues over which people are fighting

•Being commonly mistaken for miscommunications or personality clashes

•Tolerance of disrespectful and adversarial behaviors

•Seeming irrationality

•Accidental misunderstandings

•Apparent idiosyncratic causes and circumstances

•Underlying similarities

4 Meta-Sources of Chronic Conflict

• Social Inequality

• Economic Inequity

• Political Autocracy

• Environmental Degradation”

As Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith have said, chronic conflicts “can only resolve by abandoning old approaches and adopting new ones.” As such, when those who are unwilling to change try to undo changes made over a great many years, I’m afraid it won’t resolve or otherwise manage the “chronic conflicts”, quite the contrary.

Politically engaged liberals and conservatives exhibit strikingly different levels of empathy.... The more interested in politics a conservative is, the lower his (or her) level of empathy. Liberals move in the opposite direction: the more interested in politics they are, the more empathetic."

Conservatives are happier than liberals - but only because they lack empathy [for those who fall outside of their religious or otherwise limited worldview].”

"In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism."

“In his editorial New Rule, Bill Maher calls out Republicans for refusing to get on the humane side of an issue unless they have been personally affected by it.” He refers to this as “The Empathy Gap” and it is entirely consistent with the information set forth in “The Power of Empathy”, an article I published in the Huffington Post on December 8, 2014.

This all ties in with what Joseph de Maistre said, which was "Every country has the government it deserves" and "In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve."

Electing Donald Trump President of the United States would reflect the harsh reality that the dumbing down of America has passed the point of no return. I sincerely hope that day never comes.

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