Guy Farmer: A plea for civil discourse in politics

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

I know it’s quaint and old-fashioned to call for civil discourse in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but I’m going to do it anyway because the GOP presidential campaign is rapidly deteriorating into an unseemly exercise in political mud-slinging unworthy of our great democracy. In fact, it looks and sounds a lot like a low-brow TV reality show.

I don’t know exactly when or where the mud-slinging started but I do know that things went downhill fast after bombastic multi-billionaire Donald Trump entered the GOP presidential race. “I’m the greatest,” he proclaimed, channeling a young Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali. “I’ll make America great again,” Trump announced as his paid supporters went wild for the TV cameras.

But hey, that’s the way “The Donald” does business, making exaggerated claims and praising himself to excess. Because he’s “very rich” (his words) he can do or say whatever he wants, and his opponents struggle to respond as he dominates media coverage of the GOP campaign season.

First, Trump branded immigrants from Mexico as “murderers” and “rapists” and claimed he would build an impenetrable wall along the U.S.– Mexico border, and force the Mexicans to pay for it. As someone who was married to a lovely Mexican lady for more than 40 years, I was offended by Trump’s blanket condemnation of our neighbors to the south. Then Trump upped the ante by questioning whether Arizona Sen. John McCain, who spent five years in a POW camp, was a true war hero. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump sneered after McCain called The Donald’s fans “crazies.”

Next, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called Trump a “dumb-dumb” (yes, really) after Trump said that state is “a disaster.” And finally, Trump gave out the cell phone number of another GOP presidential contender, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who responded by smashing his cell phone to smithereens in an entertaining video — shades of reality TV. Not to be outdone, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, took a chain saw to the 74,000-page U.S. Tax Code. Attaboy!

Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes wrote Trump “speaks with the subtlety and grasp of reality of right-wing talk radio.” Right-wing rants are fun to hear, but they don’t win elections. Just ask Sharron Angle.

Even though these shenanigans are beneath the dignity of the office they seek, all 16 Republican candidates are contending for TV time and poll ratings leading into the first televised debate on Fox this coming Thursday. So they do and say anything that will attract the attention of potential voters. I think that’s why former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee went way overboard when he compared President Obama’s controversial Iran nuclear deal to the Holocaust, accusing the president of “leading Israelis to the gates of the ovens.”

Meanwhile, Democrats were having their own political food fight as former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was forced to apologize after uttering a forbidden phrase, “All lives matter” (yes, really). All hell broke loose because, apparently, only black lives matter on the Left. Simultaneously, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, was mounting a surprisingly strong challenge to the Democrats’ “anointed one,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lurched from scandal to scandal. “The farther Clinton moves to the left to accommodate the Sanders/(Elizabeth) Warren wing of her party, the farther she distances herself from the center,” Barnes wrote, as Sanders closed the gap with Hillary in the early primary states.

Are we having fun yet? Don’t despair, however, because we only have to put up with this nonsense for another 15 months. Help!

Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.


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