This is no longer about who wins our presidential election. America is at a crossroads. The world is aghast and anxious. As the nominee of a major political party, Donald Trump’s utter lack of self-control and disregard for decency or truth reflect more about Americans than they do him. Trump’s deflections and distortions notwithstanding, his latest misogynist comments are most telling in the why, not how of his behavior – he understands precisely why he can sexually assault women with impunity – his privilege.
We should consider why only now are some finally leaving the Donald. Blaming Mexicans, banning Muslims, mocking the disabled, bragging about his daughter’s body weren’t enough. I can’t even watch the news in front of my daughter. There are no words to describe our sorry state.
In the second presidential debate as Donald Trump played to his base he chipped away at our nation’s foundation. His threats to jail his opponent upon victory embolden those who have. Trump’s tax evasion empowers other freeloaders. His sniffling non-answers bait racism as part of his divide and rule strategy.
The 2016 presidential campaign jeopardizes America’s moral authority. While much of the world is glued to this reality TV nightmare, shaking their heads in disbelief, others tuned out long ago. In this new multi-polar environment where non-state actors play an increasing if volatile role, America’s strength remains our principles, institutions and the perception of power and order. What should trouble us more than disdain is the growing ambivalence towards America.
Anyone who thinks none of this matters to them is mistaken. As Brexit shows, one country’s actions impact everyone. And there can be no doubt about the president’s influence domestically. America remains the world’s largest economy and ‘leader of the free world’ – whatever that still means. Today’s easy flow of people and information binds everybody into a global community, erasing old ideas on borders and trade.
Some may even delight in the “fall of the American Empire” exclaiming that America had this coming after its history of supporting bad leaders; now it’s our turn. American ‘exceptionalism’ comes into question – why should our rise and fall be any different than others?
No matter the result Republicans have a lot of stocktaking to do while both parties bear responsibility for weakening our political system. The media with its continuous, “breaking news” coverage, building up cults of personality only to bring them down again, played a role. We - me - who can’t get enough - all enablers. The American public has the most to lose if we are not more engaged to protect our democracy.
I get it - for many both candidates are flawed opportunistic operators, sharing a sense of entitlement and enrichment alienating them from the rest of us. But there are real differences between the candidates and one will end up becoming commander in chief. So grab some Listerine, rinse your mouth after the Tic Tac gross aftertaste of the last week, and vote.
Then the real fight for America begins as we grapple with how to reform our tax code, fix campaign finance laws that now encourage politicians to have ‘public and private personas,’ balance the budget, safeguard civil liberties and address racial inequality as well as the grievances of those who fear losing control and feel left behind. Our good actions must trump bad words.