First, a brief recap of some real-life political events. Republican congressional candidate in Florida’s 27th district launched his campaign this month with an ad that depicts President Obama as the captain of slave ship. The slogan of the ad says, “Let’s turn this ship around.” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is depicted in digital photos dressing the President down on the tarmac after his recent visit to her state. South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson loudly shouts out “You Lie” from his seat during President Obama’s health care speech to Congress.
Now, close your eyes and imagine what would have happened if this had occurred during the Clinton or Bush administrations and the offenders had been people of color. First, the slave ship ad would have been ‘turned around’ in production; the Secret Service would still have the governor in lock-down in an orange jumpsuit and the offending congressman would now be managing his brother-in-law’s used car dealership in South Carolina.
Anyone who turns a blind eye to such egregious behavior and dismisses it as simply ‘bad’ probably still places their extracted teeth under a pillow at night in hopes of finding money the next day. The distressing reality during this Presidential election year is that we have not even hit the second month in 2012, which means that we have at least 8 more months of viral YouTube moments. It leads even the most jaded observer to ponder just how ugly this campaign season will possibly get?
Forget the fact that the GOP debates are peppered with allegations, low-blows, audiences straight out of central casting and exchanges between the candidates that are just short of ‘yo mama’ jokes. Forget the fact that the only Republican presidential candidate who was able to put forth an economic plan that was scantily worth remembering was brought down in soap-opera fashion with allegations of infidelity. Forget — well, it’s hard not to forget at this point — that the Republican pool of candidates is so unlikeable that even after all of the vitriol, there is no clear leader for the nomination. This is not only a narrative about the state of one political party, but a reflection of the state of politics in general.
In retrospect, President Obama’s predecessors faced their own harsh critics and febrile criticisms. Bush I’s “read-my-lips-no-new-taxes” came back to haunt him and he was defeated after one term to Bill Clinton. Clinton became the second US president to be impeached and Bush II not only ran through a surplus budget like a Beverly Hills housewife but engaged the nation in an international conflict based on flawed information. But even taking into account Obama’s uphill battles with an obstinate Congress and an unstable domestic economy, he has faced more showdowns than a VH-1 reality show, not to mention the ‘out-of-bounds’ disparaging remarks made about his wife by various pundits. He is knightly — obviously more Gandhi than Ike Turner and more Martin Luther King, Jr. than Mike Tyson.
Judith Martin, an etiquette authority who is best known for her Miss Manners column said, “We are born charming, fresh and spontaneous and must be civilized before we are fit to participate in society.” This is a lesson to be savored by the members of today’s Republican party… before this gets any uglier.