Monday, July 25, 2016

Conventions Are Scaring A Lot of People

Posted: Sunday, July 24, 2016 11:45 pm | Updated: 11:51 pm, Sun Jul 24, 2016.
I watched most of the Republican National Convention last week. And I am going to watch most of the Democratic National Convention this week. I'd like to think that makes me an involved, informed, sophisticated American citizen.
But I'm also a huge fan of "The Three Stooges" and once binge-watched an entire season of the show "Alias." I guess my credentials as a discerning viewer just might be debatable.
As this is written, the Republicans (or perhaps more accurately, the Trumpicans) have completed their official nominating process. The Democrats will have their opportunity to celebrate and excoriate over the next four days, but the bar to match has been set pretty high - or low.
As a political junkie, I am fascinated by the unique and often unsavory politics playing out during this interminably long presidential campaign. While it is true that every presidential election is an experience, this one truly is different.
It's like a massive traffic accident you come upon while traveling. You hope no one is seriously hurt, but you are fascinated by the potential for disaster that has been unleashed.
Then you hit that accident scene where someone does get hurt. The awful, terrible images and sounds are burned into your brain. You can't un-see what you saw, or un-hear what you heard. And the after-effects can be traumatic and long-lasting for both you and those around you.
I have been alive now for 15 different presidential nominating convention seasons. I can't say I have watched them all, but I can - without hesitation, reservation or qualification - say the one I just watched last week was the most frightening, disappointing, and disheartening I have ever witnessed.
And yes - I'm a Democrat. So I philosophically disagree with most of the candidates and positions the Republican Party put forth at their gathering. But that had nothing to do with the fear and revulsion that swept over me as I watched what unfolded. And if the Democrats do the same things starting tonight, I will be just as horrified and disgusted.
I watched thousands of American citizens, on national television, chant for the nominee of their opposition party to be jailed. I watched alleged leaders of the party encourage and lead that activity. I watched a retired general in the United States military come dangerously close to accusing the former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady of treason. I watched a well-educated speaker and former candidate link the opposition nominee to Lucifer. All as what could only be described as a "mob" cheered.
I watched a major party in this country nominate a candidate who has expressed a desire to ban all people of a certain religion from entering the country. A man who has derided the former nominee of his party, Sen. John McCain, saying he is not a war hero. I watched as an organized event was held to generate hatred and anger, and harness it for the purpose of gathering political power.
And for the first time in my life, I was actually frightened for the future of the country I love.
I very much hope Democrats resist the urge to act in the same irresponsible, hateful, disrespectful manner this week. If they do, they will deserve the same scorn their counterparts so richly earned in Cleveland. They have hardly been angelic in their demeanor this campaign season. But now they have an opportunity to refuse to lower the standard for political discourse in this country beyond the point where it has nearly been buried.
I remember Democrat Lyndon Johnson broadcasting a commercial of an atomic bomb exploding, intended to instill public fear in the judgment of Republican opponent Barry Goldwater. Much of the nation was outraged.
Today, that would barely be considered a "negative ad."
All conventions feature speakers attacking the opposition. Nothing new there. And the attacks are often sharp, intense, and even personal. The people who attend these things are partisans, and they are there to promote their views and run down the "other" party.
But if we continue to fuel our politics with this new kind of intense hatred, we will never be the country we think we are - or strive to be. Both parties need to grow up and act accordingly.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

No comments: