WASHINGTON — How could the next three months in this seemingly endless campaign for the presidency be any more jarring than the last 12? Well, as the dust settles over the political theater that grips the faithful of both major parties in their quadrennial pep rallies, we’re about to find out.
If the attacks and counterattacks we already have suffered through — Republicans demanding the Democratic nominee be at least locked up if not worse, and Democrats arguing the GOP’s candidate is unfit, unqualified, dangerous and just plain without any socially redeeming value — are any indication, the rush to the finish in November is likely to leave the national electorate prostrate from abused sensibilities.
Having covered 32 national political conventions from 1960 to 2004 in-person and all those since by television, I have seen these uniquely American spectacles devolve into events less and less focused on the selection of party torch-bearers. This year’s two conventions produced more of the same with the exception that they established polar opposite views about where this nation is and where it is headed. The Republicans were utterly negative, the Democrats utterly positive, reflecting the philosophic natures of their nominees: one dark, one light.
Now the real head-knocking begins, with the current champion in such dubious behavior and unfettered trash talk, the Republican nominee Donald Trump, not waiting until Hillary Clinton’s party finished anointing her before siccing the Russians on her in one of the most disturbingly bizarre incidents in a campaign full of them. Go after her “personal emails” — some 30,000 are missing from the home server she ran as state secretary — he urged Russian hackers, and let us know about them. Just being sarcastic, he said, later in an ineffective effort to cool down the criticism.
In days gone by this alone would accomplish what all Trump’s earlier outrageousness couldn’t, putting an end to his political future. Tack that on to the fact he seemed to be encouraging Vladimir Putin’s government to influence the American election, it will be a miracle in modern politics if this storm passes. It is believed the Russians already are responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails that cost the DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz her job and produced a minor uproar and divisiveness as the party’s convention began.
Is Trump nuts? That and more, charged former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was brought in as an independent to lambaste his fellow New Yorker and billionaire as completely undesirable and a person of poor character who raises the possibility of ending us all if elected. That theme emerged over and over again during the last two days of the Democratic convention, serving notice that the next 90 days or so before November are going to be about Trump’s obvious lack of presidential qualities, including temperament needed to run the country.
The Trump forces already had made it clear they were heading in the same direction and the polls show that the race, despite Trump’s eschewing of any political decency and historic lack of mouth control, is a dead heat. Even his openness to legitimate charges of racism haven’t cost him in the polls.
Why? Probably because Clinton herself has a near-record negativity rating. For whatever reason, and there are many, she is not well-liked even by some who say they will support her. Substitute a more conventional nominee than Trump and she most likely would be trailing and in major trouble. Is this fair? Not really, but years of political exposure and difficult jobs, while making her among the most qualified in modern times to seek the presidency, has left her vulnerable to the criticisms of public office. That’s not to mention that familiarity often breeds contempt that translates ultimately into blame for incidents gone wrong, deserved or not, which is how the Republicans have effectively centered their personal attacks — Benghazi, her emails, a lack of trust, et cetera.
So will the next three months be as difficult as the negative run-up to the nominations? Probably. If Clinton is to overcome her own lack of popularity, she must convince Americans that the act of electing Trump would be one of self-destruction.
Given the overwhelming evidence that should lead any responsible voter to support that conclusion, the jury shouldn’t even be out on this matter. But who knows in this fight cage.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: [email protected].
(c)2016 Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
PHOTO of Dan K. Thomasson is available from the Columnist Mugs section of www.tribunenewsservice.com.
KeyWords:: BC-THOMASSON-COLUMN:MCT BC THOMASSON COLUMN MCT