I've made it no secret that I hate Donald Trump. I hate his pugilistic nature and his inability to tell the truth or empathize. At the same time, his brutal rawness has shown us just who this overbearing, racist, misogynistic, man-toddler is. What's more, it's helped to expose some of Hillary Clinton’s flaws, including her occasional bad judgment and her over-reliance on secrecy.
We can't give Trump too much credit, though. He's had help from Russia which has tried to interfere with our electoral process through hacking, perhaps for sport. Add to that, this campaign season has seen unrelenting press coverage and people throughout the country have used social media to opine and antagonize about the candidate they hate, fear, or both.
We've viewed these candidates extremely close up. We’ve learned all we care to about Donald Trump's penis and his feelings of attraction to his daughter. We've listened in as Trump talked about his supposedly uncontrollable habit of assaulting women. We’ve read embarrassing emails that showed how control-freaky and insecure Clinton was in managing her campaign. And we've been reminded of how, she was quite willing to deny her husband’s alleged infidelities in ways that rang opportunistic and false.
I admit to participating in this verbal shitstorm. In fact, I’ve posted so many articles on Facebook about this election (almost always opposing Trump) that one friend implored me via text to cut back. (I didn't but I did suggest that she unfollow me.) As a journalist, part of me loves this merciless scrutiny and forced transparency. I like knowing what's behind the curtain.
But part of me also feels really uncomfortable seeing such an intimate views of these public figures.
I had a similar feeling after watching the first episode of "Black Mirror." (No spoiler alert, because what I'm about to tell you is revealed in the first few minutes.) It’s about a British prime minister who faces an unimaginably agonizing choice: A Youtube video shows that a princess has been kidnapped, and it makes clear that the only way her kidnappers will not kill her is if the prime minister has sex with a pig.
I won’t tell you what happens after that, but I can share that, as a viewer, I was extremely uncomfortable being privy to this prominent man's very personal crisis, which was, of course, the point of the episode. In the same way, I'm not all that eager to know so much about the deep, personal flaws of these two candidates.
I'm not suggesting that we turn a blind eye to candidates' shortcomings. Rather, I'd like the Republican and Democrat parties to do their jobs. That is, vet, seek out, and cultivate decent candidates and not stand in the way of candidates who are decent, such as Bernie Sanders. A big reason why we have all been caught up in the mud-slinging is because we're stuck with two flawed candidates. While onlookers (including us) and the media contribute to the ugliness, we wouldn't be where we are if the nominees were better human beings.
Take Trump, for example. The Republican party knew early on that he can't make it through a speech without lying his ass off, lacked political experience, and had a known history of talking about women in a disparaging way, not to mention allegations of rape. Meanwhile, the Democrats knew about Clinton's baggage which included scandals that went back decades, her occasional propensity to lie (such as when she made up a story about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia), and her decision to store emails so that they would not be subjected to public requests through the Freedom of Information Act.
Just think about what disasters lie ahead as a result of these rudderless ships, regardless of who wins the election. You think Obama had a hard time when he took office? His obstacles will seem like a walk in the park compared to the difficulties our next president will have to face.
If Clinton wins, which is looking more and more likely, the first female president will face lawmakers who despise her, perhaps even more than they did Obama. She might have more Dems in Congress, but Republicans probably will still try to block her at every turn. Meanwhile, I expect if the defeated Trump were to give the order, his followers would heckle her at every event, or, even worse, those “second amendment people" might shoot her.
In the unlikely scenario that Trump is elected, we can be sure that he will be ready to retaliate against those who have humiliated him with hostility and perhaps even violence (depending on how far he would take the “law and order” thing.) He has already threatened to attack countries that piss him off, throw Clinton in jail, and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. He would never be able to find compromises with lawmakers and, instead, just be reactionary to every crisis that blows up in his face.
And it's not just the candidates who have been beaten up and are limping toward November 8th. We Americans have turned on each other and created a divide among the electorate this country has never known. There is not one group of people who hasn't been scorned and humiliated by candidates and the public, including African Americans, Muslims, Asians, women, rape victims, immigrants, Democrats, Republicans, and any man who’s ever visited a locker room. We’ve all felt obligated to pick a side or be ridiculed for being an undecided voter.
Both parties must learn from this downward spiral of an election. They should do what's necessary to put forth candidates who, while they may not be perfect, are truthful, compassionate, experienced, and know how to give a speech. This vetting must start early on, so party officials can guide men and women and determine where their weaknesses lie.
The way it is now, with the candidates we are having to vote on, the parties have jeopardized the safety of the candidates and our country, because right now, I don't know of one American who feels confident that the candidate he or she will vote for will be successful in leading our nation.