Presidential Candidates: A Case of 'Children Should be Seen Not Heard'

The length of our presidential race needs to be shortened not just for our political sanity but also for the sake of our dignity as a country. The longer the race gets, the more money pours into these races (naturally), and the more rhetoric deteriorates to the point where the candidates are resorting to schoolyard exchanges that, as parents, most of these same candidates would reprimand their children for, and send them to their rooms, grounded without supper (or Twitter). There are few who have stayed above the fray, and thankfully the other party has completely abstained from such loathsome, inciteful, racially charged, and degrading language.

If Americans have been watching our presidential campaign, then I can state with certitude they have witnessed excessive exchanges and speeches to be embarrassed about as citizens of this country -- childish, vulgar, racist, personal, and acrimonious exchanges among the Republican candidates. To be fair, I wish I could say the same of the other party, and yes, there have been some heated and impassioned exchanges between Senators Clinton and Sanders, and others before that. I wonder what the rest of the world, watching this process closely, are saying about us.

Lest we forget, while taking in the reality TV infotainment spectacle of it all, these candidates are vying for the highest office in the land. But with statements like, "We will carpet bomb them into oblivion: I don't know if sand can glow in the dark, but we're going to find out!"; or "I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding"; or "If you see them, knock the crap out of them -- would you, seriously? I promise you I will pay for the legal fees," shouldn't we automatically exclude some of these candidates from the presidential race for making such demeritorious statements?

The damaging effect of all this undignified language and fanatical messaging is manifold: the debates and speeches are there on TV, radio, the internet, in our offices, our living rooms and the bedrooms. And there are impressionable youngsters in the background, listening to this bigoted, foul, indignant language. What sort of message are we sending to the next generation by these deplorable examples? Are those the ideals expected of our highest leaders now? "The electorate is angry" is a weak and ridiculous excuse for allowing the current tenor of discourse. Every one of us gets angry sometimes, but we should not (and are punished if we do) extol violent or racist sentiments because of it. Unfortunately the candidates' offensive behaviors have gone mostly unchallenged, as the media has accepted the crass sensationalism, carrying on (for rating sake) in this shameful pageant as if there was nothing wrong with the ignoble language or political stances.

To be sure, there is freedom of speech. But the last time I checked, we did have certain limitations on free speech rights, and there are laws against hate speech, slander, obscenity, incitement etc.: heck, you cannot even yell "fire" in a public theater!

And before we discount the candidates' statements as just "poorly chosen words" or a lack of decorum, look deeper -- disguised beneath the thinly veiled schoolyard style bullying and street brand bluster is a dog whistle calling for an adoption of ideology that should be alarming to any democratically principled American. It is an ideology that smacks of neofascism, separatism and exclusivism. We have seen a brand of this bluster and bending of rules in the face of internationally accepted laws not too long ago, rules that were discarded when it came to water boarding, rendition, military internment, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens and indiscriminate bombing conveniently disguised under that ugly war word -- collateral damage! And all it got us was hated, isolated, economically feeble and breeding a new brand of terrorism that plagues us to this day.

One response to it all may be, "Well, one can always turn off the TV, radio and other forms of media." But can you? To learn about the candidates' views and temperaments, what other options are there, given the way our election unfolds, but to watch debates and speeches? We don't want voters to enter the voting booth after merely reading the voting guide that accompanies the ballot, or to vote based on bravado-filled sound bites from television ads with little or no substantive content.

Henry Wallace said, "A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Sometimes the frustration at not being able to send these despicable, bigoted, and ignominious candidates to their room for their behavior infuriates me, but if you really think about it, it is the media that has that disciplinarian responsibility -- our first line of defense against untruths, ill will, and criminality. But the media is shirking their duty by not holding the candidates' feet to the fire, and it is up to the voters to send these candidates packing to their rooms and ground them for good.