It’s almost over. Unfortunately, the final presidential debate Wednesday and the next two weeks will only drive America’s standards for decency further into the ground. This new low-level of language, and political contempt we have for one another, has been dragged beyond the red-and-blue divide, and into the mainstream of social behavior.
After the barrage of insults we received for reassigning the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Comedian, we realized just how deeply Donald Trump has stained society.
It cannot be a coincidence that so much of the hateful language we, and other media outlets, have received directly echoes language used by Trump. And has been consistent, from post to post on LEO’s Facebook page, and from commenters coast to coast. In addition to using the same words to disagree with us, the other constant was all of the commentators seemed to be white, and most of them, men.
Maybe Trump is legitimizing an existing new low in public discourse, maybe he is responsible for creating it — or both.
Regardless, it reflects the new norm for discussion in America, which Trump has made OK to use in public. And use, they did.
We knew this sick underbelly of America existed, but we did not anticipate the anger and invective that would come from our decision.
The person we disqualified for supporting violence against women and others has a lot of followers across the country, and they sharpened their social media pitchforks to defend him. The number of times we were told we “suck,” or were called varying parts of the female body, or told to kill ourselves, easily eclipsed the number of votes cast for him.
Of course, when Trump talks about grabbing and assaulting women, we want to assign it to Trump being more disgusting. But when you find yourself talking with friends and family about Trump and politics, you realize that this very language percolates into normal conversation. No, not in a locker room. General conversations have begun to reflect this new normal — a lower standard of decency — in which certain words are now much more casually used and accepted.
And that is one of the many unforgivable, ineradicable attacks Trump continues to perpetrate against society. He is assaulting and forever undermining the election process — challenging its legitimacy (before he has lost) and legitimizing his ultimate trade deal: facts for convenient amnesia. But perhaps equally as bad, he is sucking every last shred of civil discourse down the toilet with him.
Trump is a verbal cyclone: a vicious vortex that amasses energy from the yeses of his inner-circle and the cheers of crowds, until he has overwhelmed everyone with insults and delusions, leaving an area of destruction so vast that even those who avoided a direct hit are left irreparably damaged by its debris.
He may have ruined the lives of contractors he never paid, and women he has assaulted, but Trump’s indiscriminate path of destruction assaults us all.
This will be his legacy.
From the stands at two high school basketball games, players at both schools were victimized by Trumpian slurs about Mexican immigrants. Trump wasn’t there, but his strengthening storm was, as high school students screamed anti-Latino chants at opposing teams’ players. These hecklers were kids, too young to vote, probably too innocent and naive to know how big the world is outside of their hometowns. They were victims engulfed by the malicious political monsoon of one megalomaniac.
Former presidents can be remembered for having a general message or tenor. John F. Kennedy was inspirational and promoted involvement in civic life. Ronald Reagan was congenial and encouraged “morning in America.” George W. Bush was a cowboy and the (bad) decider. And Barack Obama has been charismatic, diplomatic, patient and respectful.
It will be fascinating to see how our first female president defines herself and what mark she leaves on the country.
But this year, when you step into the voting booth, think about whether we want to save any credibility on American civility and decency — and then think about the two lasting words each candidate’s campaign will leave us: deplorable and pussy.