By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
It’s contagious! In arguing for a return of the capital punishment in the form of the guillotine and public executions Maine Governor Paul LePage joked about where the severed head might land.
This just days after Donald Trump quipped, “I could shoot somebody in Times Square and not lose any support.”
When are our leaders and would-be leaders going to talk sense to the American people instead of trying for school yard boasting and juvenile behavior?
In answer to the threat posed by ISIS you may recall that Senator Ted Cruz bellowed that he would carpet bomb the whole region and “see whether the desert sand glows.” Another nifty one liner sure to please all his angry supporters who also agree with him that New Yorkers are “values challenged.”
And of course now with Sarah Palin back on center stage promoting Donald Trump I am sure we can expect to be showered with more faux folksy Palinisms that would have made Yogi Berra cringe.
The point is that this country faces real and serious problems and in response we get sound bites and foolish and dangerous proposals intended to further rile up the candidate’s voter base while doing nothing to either elevate politics or offer serious solutions or even engage in constructive dialogue.
Frankly six months ago I figured that the Republican field of candidates would have now been winnowed down to a serious and adult-minded few, which by definition would have excluded the aforementioned Messrs. Trump or Cruz.
Instead their brand of toxic talk and preposterous proposals seems to be spreading like a virus amongst the Grand Old Party which is beginning to more resemble a party scene from the movie “Animal House” (with apologies to John Belushi) than the Republican Party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, or even Ronald Reagan.
When candidates for high office spew the kind of venom towards their opponents and anyone else who disagrees with them it sends a signal to people that respect and civility is not necessary in our political process or even amongst fellow citizens. And when those politicians heap scorn on foreigners and other minority groups, well, we are then slipping into very dangerous territory indeed.
But the real question is, does Trump or Cruz reflect the views of just a fairly small percentage of the American electorate, albeit a significant swath of the Republican nominating voters, or has the broader public become so embittered, so cynical and so polarized that they will support any person who preaches easy answers and blames our national problems on those who are not traditional Americans or natural born citizens?
Can it be that for the comfort of voting for a person who offers simplistic solutions and muscular slogans Americans are prepared to embrace the politics of rage over reason, and cynicism over intelligent and informed consideration? As an avid political observer of our times I am eager to know the answer… I am also a little bit afraid.