In January of 2012 Jonathan Merritt, an award-winning writer on religion, culture, and politics, commented on “the most negative election in U.S. history.”
This year, Merritt wrote, “Donald Trump has turned the Republican primary into a WWE-style wrestling match.”
Trump has gained the most Republican Party delegates to date, and at the same time is one of the least liked candidates.
The presidential elections have always been a time of turmoil and posturing – sometimes even violence. The archives of the Chicago Tribune provide this information from the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago:
Colorful young activists such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin had vowed to lead Vietnam War protesters to Chicago to disrupt the convention. Chicago police fueled the paranoia by publicizing reports that demonstrators were planning to spike the city’s water supply with LSD. Mayor Richard J. Daley made it clear he would brook no attempts to disrupt the convention or sully the city’s name. The Illinois National Guard was called up and roads to the International Amphitheatre were surrounded with heavy security.
As the delegates jammed into Chicago’s downtown hotels, thousands of young demonstrators moved into Lincoln Park. Each night, police moved in, sometimes using tear gas and physical force to clear them out. At first, the news media focused on events at the Amphitheatre, where tempers flared during debate on the Vietnam War. CBS newsmen Mike Wallace and Dan Rather were roughed up on camera by security guards, causing anchor Walter Cronkite to intone to a national audience, “I think we’ve got a bunch of thugs here, if I may be permitted to say so.”
When thugs take over a democracy it becomes a mobocracy.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. In 2011, a shooting in Tucson killed six people and wounded 13 others, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In response, the community came together to create the non-partisan National Institute for Civil Discourse. NICD is devoted to the principles that people can have very different values and political preferences, but can still discuss these differences in a civil manner.
Let’s make America civil again.