A quick debate night read by Ilana Cohen (NY)- let us stay strong and remember that Clinton's missteps have been blown way out of proportion! -Bella D.
My friends and I joke about “The Donald” all the time; his bizarre campaign provides an infinite amount of sound bites for a left-wing sense of humor. But the reality of Trump’s success in this election—securing the Republican presidential nomination that few initially expected him to receive—is not only frightening, but also indicative of the extent to which he was underestimated. Trump has branded himself as a “no filter” leader unafraid to challenge political correctness, oftentimes by offending every group in America (except his largest support base of uneducated white men) and misstating facts. Yet Trump’s manipulation of reality often fails to become a headline grabber, perhaps because about 44% of America supports his candidacy (and possesses some undiscovered gene that causes immunity to hateful rhetoric). Peers of mine have even argued that Trump cannot be held to typical standards for a presidential candidate because he is not a typical presidential candidate, excusing him from the same scrutiny that Clinton receives.
Regardless of whether you like him (and I’m hoping you don’t), it’s hard to deny that Trump has a chance at winning the presidency, and the growing ideology that “Trump will be Trump” is only an insulator that brings him closer to doing so. Holding Trump to the same standards as Clinton is a much more effective way to highlight the stark contrast between them.
We Shouldn’t Criticize Clinton for Doing Less
It’s not that Donald Trump isn’t criticized in the media, but the way his (much more frequent) missteps are spoken of differs greatly from the way in which the media portrays those of Clinton. Just look at the stark difference in the complexity of questions Matt Lauer, who was later called out for going easy on Trump, asked the presidential candidates in their interviews.
Most recently, Clinton was attacked for her comment that half of Trump supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables.” After receiving harsh criticism, Clinton expressed regret over her statement. In condemning a vocal group of Trump supporters who perpetuate racism, sexism, and xenophobia in the country, Clinton took a clear stand against the Trump ideology. Yet the lack of stereotypical polish in the line set off media watchdogs, who hounded Clinton as if the questionably targeted comment was enough to label her unworthy of the presidency.
Meanwhile, Trump has continually made deplorable comments throughout his campaign. The problem is that his outlandish speech doesn’t usually stick because it's such a common occurrence. The time span in which Trump’s brash language rolls right off his back is a mere fraction of the time it takes for any mishap by Clinton to die down in the public eye. Take, for example, Clinton’s use of a personal email server while she was Secretary of State. Though doing so was certainly unwise, the view of this issue as the defining aspect of candidacy as opposed to any of the many accomplishments of her impressive political career is not only flawed, but also invokes a much harsher judgment of Clinton than seems to be dealt out to any moments of Trump’s history of corruption and fraud.
More Than Trump’s Narcissism Is Criminal
The Trump campaign’s twisted depiction of “crooked Hillary” and the calls of Trump supporters for Clinton to be put behind bars seem to be quite ironic when considering that their candidate of choice is already engaged in several lawsuits for his own criminal activity. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is prosecuting Trump University for its false advertising and consumer fraud—all of which occurred under Trump’s watch. Trump is also on trial for his own misconduct. Having allegedly raped a thirteen-year-old, Trump’s history of sexual harassment of women provides strong support for the scenario put forth. These investigations should certainly be presented to voters as of equal concern, if not more so, with Clinton’s email debacle.
And let’s not forget that Trump likes to stretch the truth. Though constantly lying to the public isn't illegal, it certainly speaks to a criminal lack of character. Donald Trump spearheaded the ‘birther movement’ in 2011, claiming that Obama was born in Kenya and unqualified to be President despite a complete lack of evidence for such. This type of lying has become so routine for Trump that we, the public, expect it. A lie from Clinton would make the front page of almost every newspaper in the country while from Trump, a lie is just business as usual. But the fact that the we anticipate that a presidential candidate will lie is insane! And if we don’t hold Trump accountable for his every word, we are allowing his distortions of the truth to become acceptable. And the more socially acceptable it becomes for Trump to voice hatred and ignorance, the more acceptable it becomes for his supporters to do so as well.
The Scary Reality of Trumpism Taking America
One might argue that perhaps, as the more politically experienced presidential candidate who is perceived as the safer choice for the presidency, Clinton is subject to more speculation by the public. Her words are expected to carry more weight. But almost half of our country supports Trump, so to consider him a joke of a candidate at this point is to consider almost half our country’s votes to be worthless. For all of his supporters, Trump is an incredibly serious contender for the presidency, which is why he should suffer the same scrutiny as Clinton.
The ways in which we expect politicians to behave--to court and include all American voters, to speak respectfully, and to disavow extremist views being a few--are standards for a reason. We want our politicians and especially, our President, to embody the upstanding values that the U.S.—a country built by immigrants—is meant to represent. If we don't hold all politicians to these standards, or if we make the exception even for an exceptionally bizarre candidate, then we are sacrificing many of our country's political ideals.
Dear non-deplorable America, please don't sacrifice democracy, tolerance, and freedom: hold Trump accountable for all of his hateful speech, be skeptical of media bias, and cast your vote for the right candidate on Election Day.