While it may not seem like it at times, Americans tend to share some base level of understanding in how life in our nation should be experienced. We believe in the hopeful promise of the future, an intimate respect for our home communities and the opportunity to flourish as human beings. We feel that those most in need ought to be helped, and we hold the conviction that everyone should have a chance to earn their own version of the elusive American Dream.
However, those ideals seem as if they are fading from the popular conscience amid historic degrees of political polarization, as well as a largely asymmetric economic recovery following the financial crises of 2008.
Average Americans feel dissected, disillusioned, frustrated and forgotten. Moreover, popular faith in the ability to create a better life has fallen and a general feeling of pessimism seems to be the tone of the day. Confidence in our national institutions has all but collapsed, which isn’t surprising when we can still look around at good people striving in honest work and struggling to get ahead.
This election has undoubtedly been one of the most atrocious displays of “public decorum” in modern political history, with rampant personal attacks and new rhetorical lows encountered almost daily. But perhaps the most heinous of these affronts has been the exploitation of American disillusionment for personal political gain by Donald Trump. In recent weeks, the Republican nominee, confronted with flailing national poll numbers after the revelation of a 2005 tape in which he bragged about his ability to sexually assault women with impunity, has taken to questioning the legitimacy of the American electoral system.
Instead of addressing the lack of institutional confidence experienced by so many in our nation and fighting to restore this confidence, Mr. Trump has attempted to bring American democracy itself into question. Tweets and speeches routinely feature claims that the election is “rigged.” From unfounded accusations of conspiracy between his opponent and national media outlets, to calling on his supporters to monitor polling stations, the boiling rhetoric of a nefariously pre-determined election is as dangerously corrosive as it is unprecedented.
Irresponsibly creating doubt about the fairness of a presidential election in order to excuse self-inflicted campaign failures is a disservice to the American people, one that encourages a warped understanding of political reality. It is the ultimate transgression from a campaign that has spectacularly failed to meet the demands of a beleaguered and deserving public.
And that is tragic.
It is tragic because the backward slide towards attacking electoral legitimacy, while demonizing one’s opponent creeps dangerously close to mob-rule mentality. It is tragic because the problems facing average people are not being met with serious solutions. It is tragic because when the American people cried out for a restoration of hope, they did not get it.
Instead they got Donald J. Trump.
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