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“The bigotry and lust for violence and force that we’re seeing in the Republican presidential campaign aren’t new.”

Is it possible to make America whole again? 

Maybe, somewhere, the most rabid, partisan Democrat is celebrating, but there's no cause for joy, for anybody, anywhere in this country. What is happening in the Republican Party right now is embarrassing. And horribly destructive.

As we prepare to elect someone to the country's highest office, someone who will be among the world's most powerful leaders, three of the Republican Party's four remaining candidates are making a laughing stock of the nation. Their grade-school taunts reached a stunning peak recently when (in events that were televised and remain available online, permanently, for all the world to see), Marco Rubio suggested that Donald Trump has small hands and, thus, a small "male appendage," as a New York Times writer put it. And that he may have peed in his pants during a debate.

And some days later, in a nationally televised debate, Trump responded with this: "Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands: if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee."

This is an example of the democracy we think the world should admire - the greatness, I guess, that Donald Trump wants to bring out in all of us.

Way back in the summer, for a brief moment, I subscribed to the media herd's conviction that Donald Trump had no chance of being elected. Now, of course, he certainly does.

And - also "of course" - things got even more troubling this past weekend: Trump isn't the only horror we might inflict on ourselves and the world. Ted Cruz won two of the five primaries and caucuses on Saturday and Sunday and racked up enough delegates that Rubio, who has become the presidential hope of the Republican establishment, seems likely to join John Kasich in irrelevancy.

In appearance, Cruz is a less flamboyant, more "stable" candidate than Trump. But he would be no less of a disaster as president. He, too, is a nativist, a bully, a belligerent demagogue. His pledge to carpet-bomb enemies is no less horrifying than Trump's swaggering.

Given how intensely Republican leaders dislike Cruz, they may soon find themselves embracing Trump. That's how serious the damage is to the Party of Lincoln.

The bigotry and lust for violence and force that we're seeing in the Republican presidential campaign aren't new. They've been brooding - and breeding - in the United States since its founding. And bigotry among elected officials has been hovering near the boiling point for years, in such cutely disguised forms as voter registration laws peddled as a protection against "voter fraud."

In this election campaign, though, some of the Republican candidates have dispensed with subtlety. They're saying blatantly bigoted things, urging policies that are anathema to everything this country stands for. And at campaign rallies, they're whipping crowds into a nativist, white-supremacist frenzy. This kind of thing has threatened to tear the country apart before, and it can do it again.

The United States has serious problems and challenges. To paraphrase a confession from an Anglican prayer of penitence, we have done things we shouldn't have done, and we've left undone things we should have done. Sadly, three of the Republican candidates have turned their backs on the teachings of their religion and the example of Lincoln, threatening to destroy the nation from within.

And now we seem to be headed toward a general election in which the Republican candidate will tell Americans that our future lies in fear-inspired policies of hatred and suspicion at home and swaggering belligerence abroad, and the Democratic candidate will try to appeal to what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."

I was glad to see Hillary Clinton adopting the slogan "Make America whole again" as a counterpoint to Donald Trump's patriotic chest puffing. But at this point, I have no idea which side will win. Do you?

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