A common, and disturbing, tone of discussion over breakfast, coffee and just about any time of day or place to meet is a horrifying question: “What the hell is happening to this country?”
Bigotry, hate and anger spill out in posts on social media. A profanity-spouting opportunist leads polls for the Republican nomination for President while a self-declared socialist is an upset contender for the Democratic side.
Republicans in Congress want to sideline the Constitution for a year to avoid letting the current Democratic occupant in the White House the usual procedure of nominating a needed Supreme Court Justice to fill a vacancy.
The list goes on and gets worse.
As the South Carolina primary polls say monomaniacal, self-promoting real estate billionaire Donald Trump will win his second straight Republican primary overwhelmingly and the Democratic race is a tight one between a former Secretary of State and her socialist opponent.
“I’m going to head right back home and get on my hands and knees and pray that Trump isn’t the nominee,” 73-year-old Charlene Knight of South Carolina told The Washington Post this week. “Please, anyone but him.”
Her husband, Mike Knight, echoed her concern.
“I’d take Bernie over Trump,” he said. Bernie Sanders is the socialist candidate running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President.
Another South Carolinian, Erin Mercer, 35, said this about Trump:
He’s a misogynist, a bigot, and let’s just say in my middle-aged mom set, a lot of my Republican friends even — I think a lot of them would consider voting for Hillary.
“Almost all of the voters have an opinion about Donald Trump and twice as many see him in an unfavorable light as view him favorable,” Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, tells The Richmond Times Dispatch.
Columbia, South Carolina, Republican consultant Joel Sawyer says “South Carolina is having its own ‘holy crap’ moment.”
Yet a disturbing number of those who comment on the Presidential race say Trump is their man.
Posts “kparc1212” on a Washington Post article about GOP concern about Trump:
Keep it up! Keep writing and printing anti-Trump stories and watch his poll numbers and tote totals grow!
Vote Trump! Citizen Cane finally elected!
Sanders also has fanatical followers.
Sam Osborne, posting on the The Roanoke Times web site, says:
Masses of Americans left out of prosperity for all have come to see enough suffering to know that WE THE PEOPLE have been too long suckered and are in revolt by joining with Bernie Sanders to return our land to government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Some say a serious socialist contender for President is a backlash to right-wing extremism of Republicans. They could be right.
But the public anger that has driven two improbable contenders for President to win primaries is also driving a rise of bigotry, racism and hate in America today.
Sadly, we see ministers misquoting the Bible to justify hate of gays, Muslims and minorities. They take a book that is self-contradictory, one that is nothing more than a collection of essays by humans purporting to record “the word of God” and turn it into a mandate, primarily for selective Christianity from a hard-core, fundamentalist and politically partisan point of view.
Christians point to the New Testament as a “final authority” on “God’s word.” Jews claim the Old Testament is the word and doesn’t accept Jesus Christ as a son of God.
Who’s right? Hard to say because religions, by design, are based on beliefs and not hard, verifiable facts.
Yet religions drives intolerance, bigotry, racism and hate. Religion is used to create wars. Americans go to wars and fight and die for leaders who claim it is the “will of God.”
Is it such a will to take another human being’s life? A growing number of Americans question such beliefs and we see that skepticism in questions about the Iraq war waged by America after the 9/11 attacks. Those questions now hang over both the Democratic and Republican debates for President.
Donald Trump uses hate and bigotry to draw large audiences and support for promises he can never keep because what he says he can do as President is not possible.
Trump is a liar who claims anyone who disagrees with him is a bigger liar. Ted Cruz is as much of a liar as Trump and dishonesty is a common campaign tactic for both Republicans and Democrats.
When I worked on my first political campaign in 1983 — the re-election of Congressman Manuel Lujan in New Mexico — a Republican consultant told me that “fear is a prime motivator to drive voters.”
“Make voters fear the other candidate,” he said. “Use whatever tactic you can to make them hate the opponent. Do that and you will win.”
“Whatever tactic you can” means lying, misuse of statistics and slanted perceptions. I learned to do it well — too well.
When I see what America has become today I cannot point to someone else and blame them for what happened.
The great Edward R. Murrow, in revealing the despicable tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, said the problem with despots like the senator lies in an America that breeds them and allows them to exit.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves,” Murrow said, using a quote from Shakespeare.
We haven’t learned. We have another Joe McCarthy in Ted Cruz, now a Senator from Texas and a contender for the Presidential nomination. We have the threat from Donald Trump. We have bigotry, racism, homophobia and hate present in too many of us.
The fault lies with all of us.