The Slow, Painful Death of Decency in Politics

In 1992, George H. W. Bush got hammered by the news media and general public for checking his watch while at one of the Presidential debates. Acting like he wanted the event to be over was considered rude, and unbecoming.

Fast-forward to 2016. While Barack Obama delivers a powerful and moving eulogy for former Israeli Statesman Shimon Peres, the Republican nominee for President takes to social media, telling the general public to look up a sex tape featuring a former Miss Universe.

This, along with the numerous other actions of Donald Trump, are childish, classless, petty, vulgar and deplorable. (Yes, I think that phrase is appropriate.) It’s fair to say that the bar for what is acceptable in the public discourse isn’t lowering, it’s in free-fall. However, the buck ultimately stops with us, the general public that elevated this man to the grandest stage in American public life.

A casual stroll through one’s Facebook feed will reveal to one who still lives within our shared reality, and who lives within the confines of memes from conspiracy theory websites. It will reveal who can respectfully disagree with one another, and who feels the need to descend into Jerry Springer-style flame wars.

How did we get here? How did we go from finding facts to shape our perspective, to looking for facts that confirm our perspective? How did we go from agreeing to disagree, to punching each other at political rallies?

One could say that this behavior is the anti-politically-correct movement that has gotten out of control. What began as an opposition to soft-language in the 1990s has degenerated into being a jerk, for the sake of being a jerk. This is the Trump camp’s most frequently used smoke screen for deplorable behavior. “He’s not a bigot, he’s just politically incorrect.”

That’s not to say that liberals aren’t guilty of having some bad apples. (Alan Grayson is proof enough.) However, at least liberals can say, without reservation, that Hillary Clinton carries herself with more dignity than an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo.”