With all the violent campaign rhetoric we’ve heard, what would happen if Donald Trump suddenly changed his tone and denounced all the nastiness that has transpired?
What would occur if he publicly stated, “I have to tell you. Secretary Clinton is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States. She’s a decent family person and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. We want to fight, and I will fight, but I will be respectful.”
Such statements are unheard of in politics, right? Uttering those lines in a presidential race would be unthinkable, yes?
Nope. Not the case.
Those words, with a few modifications, were spoken by none other than Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, in reference to his at-the-time opponent, then-Sen. Barack Obama. McCain – and I know this personally from working with him and his staff in both the U.S. House and Senate – is an authentic rebel and yes, a warrior.
His positions often anger not only Democrats but also colleagues and supporters within his own party. Despite that, he is able to work with people of all political persuasions. He is respected even when he is fiercely forthright. He is highly effective without being incendiary. He’s not foaming at the mouth or vitriolic or looking to incite hateful passions and actions with potentially horrific – even illegal – consequences.
McCain, who is up for re-election in Arizona this year, has not endorsed Trump, and there’s little hope of that happening. However, Trump could help himself and his party if he only examined and followed McCain’s example.
Running for office demands the most thoughtful dialogue and debate. It requires restraint, if not respect.
It requires grace under pressure. Ethical leadership, courage and integrity all matter – immensely. Off-the-cuff quips need to be tempered, and rank rhetoric shouldn’t play a role whatsoever.
It’s monumental, and encouraging, that so many people are participating in the political process this election cycle. However, we citizens also bear the responsibility of not swallowing things whole without knowing what we are consuming. We must rely on multiple sources of information and knowledge and maybe even listen to the other side. We must not sip only the tea of our own biases.
Let’s demand that all candidates for public office exercise great care and caution during this campaign season. Let’s demonstrate our own due diligence and discernment while ensuring we base our decisions on fundamental facts, not rallying rhetoric.
Were Trump to use his bully pulpit to speak of his opponent as McCain did in 2008, it would win Trump more respect from the GOP and the populace at large. It also would send a clarion call to some of his fringe supporters that his campaign is about bold ideas and leadership, not inciting and perpetuating violence among us.