There’s a new show on TV this year. Yesterday, Ted Cruz called Donald Trump a “sniveling coward.” Trump calls Cruz “lyin’ Ted.” Cruz said law enforcement should “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods. Trump called Mexicans “rapists.” Trump said US soldiers should kill the families of our enemies. Cruz wanted only torture for our enemies. Candidates’ claims about their intimate anatomy had center stage for a while.
The hard-right wing has embraced the show, and ratings are through the roof. The venerable National Review called Trump a “witless ape riding an escalator.” Senator Lindsey Graham said that if Cruz was murdered on the floor of the US Senate, his fellows Senators would never convict the killer. Trump anticipated riots if he doesn’t get his way at the convention. There’s shows that are about the show.
Trump explained to a female news reporter that she owes her job to her appearance. A Cruz-affiliated PAC published semi-nude photos of Trump’s wife. Trump repeated the comments of white supremacists, and has been described as “winking” at them. Cruz was introduced by a pastor who had, only moments before, called for the execution of gay Americans.
Insult, torture, racism, braggadocio, violence, riots, sexism, murder and death. These all have one thing in common: Hatred. The Republican Presidential campaign show reeks of hatred. The candidates, their political surrogates, and their media enablers are reveling in each new call to hurt someone, or to kill someone, or to degrade someone. And people are being hurt.
The campaign has movements called “#NeverTrump,” “#NeverCruz,” and “#NeverKasich.” Any thought of being for something has been banished off screen. Republican leaders define themselves by what they reject, what they denounce, what they hate. But competing hatreds can never extinguish one another – so matters grow worse by the week. As Dr. King said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
There is another campaign going on -- the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Major issues in the campaign include – 1) whether Medicare for everyone would be an improvement on the Affordable Care Act; 2) whether (or not) we should continue to scale back overseas wars and invest the money here at home; 3) whether we need to cooperate with Wall Street, or rein it in aggressively to protect consumers; 4) how best to make a college education available to every American who wants one. I know what you’re thinking. Pretty dull by comparison.
But maybe politics and government should be a little boring, now that we see the alternative. Remember when Republicans crusaded against sex, violence, and bad language on television? Now they are the sex, violence, and bad language on television. Enough is enough. We don’t need a political climate that brings us to blows; we need one that brings us to our senses.
Hatred is an addictive drug. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve watched more Republican debates than I should. For a while, they were simply too hard to turn off. But it’s time to recognize what’s going on. It will take higher and higher doses of the madness to keep the high going. Soon “shock video” of people being punched at rallies won’t be enough. Someone will have to get shot, or stabbed. Soon it won’t be enough to talk about riots. They’ll have to actually have one, for fear of losing the audience.
The hatred in the campaign of 2016 can entertain for a while. It can whip us into a frenzy. It can unlock ferocious emotions. But hatred will never build a school. It will never expand a hospital, or help someone afford to go to one. Hatred, needless to say, cannot make the world more peaceful, or safer, or more just – only the opposite. It is a bottomless pit that we dare not enter.
It’s time to change the channel.