I wanted to address an issue which has been on my radar for a while, as it has for many other people, and that is the increasingly violent and caustic nature of this current election. I am the first person to say that politics can get messy very quickly, and especially in the heat of the campaign trail things can be said or done that might not be normally. Yet no matter how ugly things have become in past elections (and some have been very hotly contended) it still seems to me that this race in particular has been notably worse in both the rhetoric and actions being put forth by both sides.
I am thinking chiefly right now of the breaking news story that came out of my home state this weekend, when a Republican headquarters building was firebombed with a Molotov cocktail in the town of Hillsborough (a town I visit quite frequently). According to details, the perpetrators sprayed graffiti on the building that read “Nazi Republicans leave town or else,” suggesting the arsonists were probably not affiliated with that party. Now it’s most likely that the person or persons who committed this attack were violent criminals, possibly mentally unsound. Yet it doesn’t take away from the fact that in their minds, they were equating the GOP party with Nazis, a comparison that has in fact been made in a multitude of major news outlets:
- How Hitler’s Rise to Power Explains Why Republicans Accept Donald Trump, NY Magazine
- The theory of political leadership that Donald Trump shares with Adolf Hitler, Washington Post
- Trump’s Proposed First Move Eerily Like Hitler’s, Huffington Post
- Don’t compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. It belittles Hitler., Washington Post
And let’s not forget the reports that have consistently been coming out regarding the violent and vitriolic nature of Trump rallies, such as this one:
Now, that is not to say that the Democratic side has been perfectly behaved during this election either. One of Clinton’s most famous soundbytes from this election came when she compared half the people supporting Trump to a “basket of deplorables.” President Obama has openly condemned violent Democratic protestors outside Trump rallies. And this latest incident in Hillsborough just goes to show that people outside the GOP party are just as capable of committing violence in the name of politics.
The biggest question here is when did we as a country cross a line that now makes our political system more akin to this:
It’s a troubling question when you think about just how divided a country America has become. The Pew Research center actually attempted to answer this question here, and the conclusion they came up with was:
“Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan acrimony is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in recent history. And these trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and everyday life.”
Indeed something we are taught continuously in political science courses is that our political system has never been more partisan, more diametrically opposed, than it has now. But if our studies have indicated anything, it’s also important to note that political upheavals and realignments are also common (although some have suggested that the political system may just be broken beyond repair at this point). At the very minimum we can take minute solace in the fact that we still have a democratic electoral system, a way to make our voices heard and that is a luxury not afforded to many countries in the world. Yet it also stands that unless there is natural political party reform soon, the next election might be decided with fists rather than votes.