Political protests and personal jabs: Just the tip of the iceberg

By Tess Halpern

(Matt Johnson/ Flickr)
(Matt Johnson/ Flickr)

Last week my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. Because my dad is a history teacher and my mom is a very understanding woman, their “romantic” destination of choice was Virginia, where they spent their time touring the historic homes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Interestingly enough, my parents’ trip back in time to the homes of some of the United States’ “Founding Fathers,” where they learned about the men who had nothing but optimism for the future of our country, was perfectly juxtaposed with the latest developments in our current political race. I couldn’t help but feel that our present-day political situation is not at all what these great men had in mind for the future of their “more perfect Union.”

Since presidential debates were first televised in 1960, showmanship and personality have been important qualities for presidential candidates, but it seems that in this current election, that is all that is important.

For the first time in the history of our nation, the actual issues concerning the public and the candidates’ strategies in order to solve those problems have not been of utmost importance in a political race. The issues themselves have fallen behind to be replaced by insults, personal jabs, and yes, even penis jokes.

The 11th GOP Debate on March 3 consisted of grown men, who, at the time, had a 1/6 chance of becoming the next president of the United States, calling each other names in the most outward and blatant example of bullying that this election season has seen (which is saying a lot if you have been following this election season), along with a formal debate deteriorating into two candidates arguing over the size of their manhood.

More recently, the attacks between candidates have become even more personal, if that was even possible, with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump taking stabs at each other’s wives.

But these instances, and many others that show the ways this election has resorted to childish fights between candidates, take the spotlight away from what is actually the biggest problem that has emerged from this political year. The most serious issue is not the immaturity or the pettiness that the candidates have demonstrated, but it is the hate speech and overall tone of this election season, which doesn’t seem like it will end once we elect a president, no matter who that may be.

In his final State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama stated that one of his few regrets from his presidency was “the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” and I would agree that not only has the divide between parties become worse during Obama’s two terms, but it has reached a brand new height in the past several months.

Political protests, specifically against Trump, have happened almost weekly, with new images constantly surfacing of protestors at Trump rallies being simply escorted out of the venue when they’re lucky, and being assaulted by Trump supporters when they’re not. However, although the violence and the protests are happening more frequently, it is the subtler acts of hatred that are actually more frightening.

One needs to look no further than popular Twitter feeds to find hate speech targeted at people with differing political beliefs. For example, I only had to search through Twitter for about 30 seconds before I found an account @GOPTeens with 83.5 thousand followers, where one of its most recent tweets was an interactive poll asking followers which hashtag the account should get trending, with the options being “#DUMBocrats,” “#DEMONcrats,” “#DemocRATS” and, the winner with 32 percent of the votes, “#LiberHOLES.”

This hatred between political parties has been brewing for decades and has only been exacerbated by people like Trump who preach hate, bullying and discrimination. But at this point, I do sincerely fear that the divide between the parties has reached a point of no return, and I can’t help but wonder what our nation’s founders would think if they could bear witness to this “historic” election.

I hope we as Americans can one day set aside our differences and have actual, intellectual debates about actual, pressing issues, but, at least in the case of this election season, I don’t think that is likely.

Tess Halpern is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]