Remember those quaint old days when politicians would reprimand each other for any violations of the unspoken rules of civility that society expected of the supposedly responsible adults whom they elected to represent them in office?
By now you’ve surely realized that the old order of respectful disagreement went out the window — along with any sense of ethics and respect for the rule of law — once Donald Trump was placed in power.
There are literally nearly 49 thousand examples of this descent into divisive disrespect and name-calling aimed at political opponents, given the post count on Trump’s Twitter feed, but we may as well take one of his latest retweets as the “perfect” example, to use a descriptor that the president is fond of using in his characterizations of his own actions.
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This particular tweet is aimed unsurprisingly at one of Trump’s chief Democratic tormentors in the impeachment saga in which the president just won a major battle, courtesy of a cowardly and complicit Republican-controlled Senate that refused to acknowledge the plain facts of his criminal behavior and wittingly unleashed the president’s petty penchant for the vengeful pursuit of his prosecutors.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has been in the forefront of Democratic efforts in presidential pest control, attempting to end the infestation of the White House by the type of person who regularly uses the language of “vermin” and ‘scum” to describe his political opponents in a shameful echo of Nazi propaganda.
Considered a hero to many supporters of the efforts to remove Trump from office as soon as humanly possible, Representative Nadler is naturally reviled by the president’s supporters, as a more vocal participant in the gloating thuggery often exhibited by Trump’s base demonstrated when he interrupted a live press conference given by the congressman with childish taunts.
While one might expect that an edited video excerpt of such an encounter might wind up as a viral clip in the dank recesses of right-wing social media, the fact that the president himself retweeted a post prominently featuring the offensive satirical hashtag #ButtHurtLivesMatter proves just how far the standards of expectations for presidential behavior have fallen.
It’s all turning, and fast! MVP Heckler. https://t.co/PiA0ANmjYP
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2020
MVP heckler? No, that would be gun-legislation reform activist Fred Guttenberg whose daughter was killed in the Parkland, Florida shootings nearly two years ago and who couldn’t restrain himself from screaming “What about my daughter?” as Trump droned on about protecting American’s “Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms” during his State of the Union address.
To think that only a few short years ago, America had a president for whom the biggest scandal seemed to be his transgressive decision to wear a tan suit rather than the standard-issue navy blue.
Then again, when a society signals through its elected representatives that the president can break actual laws with impunity and with no fear whatsoever of the consequences of his behavior, it’s naive to expect that any norms of respectful behavior will ever constrain his actions again.
While this realization may easily inspire the reader to despair, it is crucial that rather than succumb to that depleting emotion, one needs to channel that emotion into anger and determination to force change at the ballot box in November with a clean sweep of Republicans out of office.
Hopefully, rather than allowing Trump’s degradation of civility to further pollute our political process, voters will react against his appeals to the divisive, primal, id-based emotional currents and vote for candidates with a message of strength through unity and mutual respect.
Trump and the Republican party that enabled him will be buried by history. As much as many Americans may want to seek their own revenge on these shameless destroyers of our higher ideals — as the president is now trying to do to his political opponents — we must fight to let a reformed justice system function in the way it was initially designed, judging each case equally under the law.