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After The Presidential Campaign, Our Toxic Politics Will Endure

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After The Presidential Campaign, Our Toxic Politics Will Endure

presidential campaign

Like all traumatic events eventually do, the U.S. presidential campaign will end.

Polling places will close, votes will be tabulated and a new electoral map will be drawn up that shows how our 45th president-elect got elected.

Unfortunately, the stink of this campaign season will stick around much, much longer. The vitriol has been too corrosive. It can’t be put into a bag, tied up and tossed away with the leftover campaign flyers. Discord this passionate, this overwhelming, leaves scars. Boundaries of decency were crossed, the authority of our democratic process and institutions were flouted, and some even talked not at all metaphorically of civil war.

The depth and immutability of our partisan divide has been exposed. One side has pledged itself to anti-intellectualism and the other to jeering at ignoramuses, as if that will bring them around to sweet reason.

People have compared the 2016 presidential campaign to a reality show — by which they mean an absurd, sham version of the real thing. Well, I’m sorry, America, but this is our reality. And none of it can be disinfected with lemon-scented niceties after the election, regardless of who wins.

Donald Trump’s entire campaign rested on his determination to unleash upon anybody and everybody who stands outside the Republican Party’s restive base. Barking with sexism, racism, religious bias, nationalism and a good dose of anti-elitist posturing, he pitted that base against a nebulous host of un-American, royalist enemies.

All the while, he not only showed a stunning lack of respect for democratic principles, but he also gloried in his own exploits at bribing politicians, avoiding taxes and generally grabbing all he could get by any means necessary.

And people cheered. Until far too late, much of the Republican leadership couldn’t muster the wherewithal to denounce him or to defend those he scourged. They even found ways to discount the fact that white supremacists gleefully latched to the promise of a Trump presidency.

The reason the GOP could not resist Trump is that the party has been fertilizing the soil he sprang from for decades, cozying up to conspiratorial talk radio hosts, casting aspersion on science, undermining the election process with false proclamations of voter fraud, sowing race-based populism.

Democrats aren’t sinless either. Clinton earned much of the distrust that she drew. It would be a lie to label all of it gender-based misogyny, although there is plenty of that as well. Skirting the rules seemed to be a calling card, from the sloppiness of the never-ending email scandals to the perks and trappings of the Clinton Foundation. Both Bill and Hillary know better. They just chose differently.

Democrats are on point to be offended at the retrograde and cynical nativism of Trumpism. But they need to be more honest about why Trump’s voters feel like the party offers them no hope. Democrats haven’t been listening to them for decades now, having cast their lot with the kind of economy in which only the educated prosper.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released in the final days of the campaign shouldn’t shock. It found more than eight in 10 voters disgusted with the whole campaign and the state of our politics.

The same poll also revealed the widespread belief that neither Clinton nor Trump is equipped to help pull the country back together. Trump is hostile to the very idea of reconciliation. It’s not his brand. Apology — even acknowledging another’s offense — is something he clearly deems as unacceptable weakness.

Clinton, on the other hand, will not be given the opportunity. Large portions of America will not suddenly begin respecting her after the election any more than they did before. And those numbers will include many people who cast their ballot for her as the least objectionable option.

Furthermore, the Republicans have already begun signaling that they intend to set the same traps they used against Barack Obama, blocking anything that might suggest moderation or cooperation. They claim it is to protect the party, but this comes at the expense of the nation. There is even talk already of impeachment for the first female president.

There isn’t much weighty discussion around the systemic changes our country needs: campaign finance reform, redistricting and shifts in ideology that will allow more moderates to live through the primaries.

America needs leadership at the national level that it can believe in, that it can trust, that will elevate the nation’s interests over partisan interests. It will take both parties to produce such leaders.

Gloat over or bemoan your candidate on the evening of November 8. Afterward, at least consider that the real work for America — regardless of political affiliation — lies ahead.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at msanchez@kcstar.com.

IMAGE: Chan Lowe/Tribune Content Agency

Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez has spent years covering immigration, schools, and other volatile beats for The Kansas City Star. She is now an editorial columnist for the Star, where she continues to offer insightful commentary on immigration, culture, and politics.

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  1. A. D. Reed November 6, 2016

    Ms. Sanchez, I think you go overboard in your attempt to be evenhanded. You write:

    “Clinton earned much of the distrust that she drew. It would be a lie to label all of it gender-based misogyny, although there is plenty of that as well. Skirting the rules seemed to be a calling card, from the sloppiness of the never-ending email scandals to the perks and trappings of the Clinton Foundation. Both Bill and Hillary know better. They just chose differently.”

    I don’t know where you come up with “skirting the rules,” since the Clintons set clearly articulated rules and policies about the separation of the Foundation from her work in the State Department AND FOLLOWED THEM. The fact that some employees tried (unsuccessfully) to skirt them is irrelevant: in fact, it’s relevant only insofar as that, when those minions attempted to get donors who were also clients in to see the Secretary of State, they failed. She refused (or her staff did). Nothing happened!

    As for the email server, there was nothing sloppy at all; while State’s and Defense’s and DNC’s and other servers, both inside the government and out, were hacked, there is not one shred of evidence that the Clintons’ server ever was hacked. Nor was there anything illegal or improper about her use of a private server, since it was clear she could not trust Yahoo or gmail or .gov to protect correspondence from being attacked, whether by Putin’s people or Giuliani’s rogue FBI people (or Wikileaks).

    What exactly is “the sloppiness of the never-ending email scandals” that you object to? Can you identify something sloppy done there? And please, Ms. Sanchez, explain how the “never-ending” email scandals are her fault. The Congress has investigated and investigated the investigators; the FBI has investigated and found nothing, even admitting that the few emails Mr. Comey claimed were classified were not, in fact. “Never-ending” because the Republicans will not let them end: i.e., we have interrogated the prisoner, and she hasn’t admitted to any crime yet, and we haven’t found an iota of evidence of a crime, so we must not be looking hard enough. So we’ll keep looking. And looking. And looking. And looking under the bed for those missing WMDs.

    Come on, Mary Sanchez. You’re a better columnist than this.Or is it your bosses at the Star who insist on false equivalency?

  2. Sand_Cat November 6, 2016

    Perhaps one side spends its time jeering at the ignoramuses out of frustration at the knowledge that nothing in heaven or on earth will bring the overwhelming majority of them “to sweet reason.” With all the years they have been screwed by the GOP and the wealthy thugs it supports (like guess who?), they are so mad they’re all out to vote for one of the very worst, who clearly has no sense of obligation to anything or anyone but himself. Kind of like shooting themselves in the foot, except they’re taking the sane people with them, most especially those who fought and took political – and sometimes personal physical – risks to help them, who are, of course, the people whom they hate the most!

  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 6, 2016

    When I first read some of Shoghi Effendi’s(a Central Figure of the Baha’i Faith) comments written during the 1930’s, regarding the decadence of America’s political system, I and others understood this intellectually, abut didn’t fully apprehend the extent and depth of the decay.
    But since the 60’s, the rotting corpse became more evident, and spiked in the 80’s thanks to Ronald’s smooth way of increasing the Divide. Some acquaintances, black and white, were so over-confident as to think racism was waning and real improvement on a consistent and heart-felt level was occurring. But I and others were skeptical, especially those of us, thanks to the legacy of slavery, having lived in Jim Crow Mississippi, who were per force required to sharpen the inner vision in order to cope with the strictures of systemic and structural racism. Donald has served a necessary and unwitting role of calling the ghosts of racism, bigotry, and an existential fear of those who look different, to rise up from dormancy and manifest their ugliness. What a shocking visage these ghouls have taken on since a light hibernation.

    The road ahead will be even more perilous—more so, if a narcissist who perceives himself as the embodiment of King George, Lester Maddox, and Strom Thurmond rolled up into one, takes the helm. Affairs in other parts of the world will be greatly affected and directly impacted by the “butterfly effect” of naked fear, bigotry, and hate rippling across the globe. Unlike in chaos theory, the impact will be more like a tsunami than a butterfly effect. To what extent the collateral damage will be, will depend on a group of about 7,000,000 Baha’is scattered across America and the rest of the world. Time and their efforts will tell.

    God works in mysterious ways, so it is said and has been amply demonstrated on countless occasions, past and present.


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  4. FireBaron November 7, 2016

    Considering the GOP effectively told their base that the 44th President was not the legitimate leader of our country, I would not be surprised for them to do the same, should Mrs. Clinton be awarded the highest office in our land. More of the same, only this time they can pretend that inherent racism is not at the root of their resistance to him – just straight up misogyny!


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