I haven’t been following too closely the early statements and criticisms of presidential hopefuls. Right now there are just too many voices vying for attention for me to be well-informed about them all. But one runner has (purposefully?) drawn much attention by his attitude toward all other candidates: Donald Trump.
Donald Trump has probably been the loudest and most combative voice in the running yet, whether he’s referring to his party or not. He’s commented on Fiorina’s face, Rand Paul’s looks, Bush’s low-energy persona, and you’ve heard the rest. He seems to be campaigning with the idea that his “no-pulled-punches” techniques will attract voters who desire change in our government. He has been quite direct on issues that matter to the public, but he has taken it even further by attacking the character or physical looks of his opponents – something that has little or nothing to do with their policy stances. This is not particularly new for Trump, who has a history of making these kinds of remarks, but it does seem new to the presidential running process (at least in my experience).
The targets of his attacks have usually responded, but they have yet to take on his employed methodology. Rand Paul has called Trump’s techniques “sophomoric” and Chris Christie has chided him for his childlike arguments. Those not in politics, though, have responded to Trump in a different way: attacking him back. From internet newspaper writers to fast food workers, many people have created posts and opinion pieces that employ Trump’s same tactics. They have commented on his hair, tan, entertainment success, and so on.
This has led me to realize that we are beginning to (if we haven’t already) evaluate candidates based on things that don’t particularly matter in regards to the Presidential Office. I’m worried that if this practice of criticizing presidential candidates (for things unrelated to the Office) go on for too long, this mindset will become natural for us. I could see this being a problem in future elections where the common voter evaluates a candidate first by his or her looks, speech ability, and so on before his or her political beliefs. I don’t want to build a slippery slope argument here, but this could put us in danger of institutions with money comically mocking a runner on social media and influencing our opinions before we really get to learn about his or her platform. I’m just hoping that when this Trump ordeal is over, we won’t think it normal to mock or even “light-heartedly tease” a candidate for things that don’t apply to Presidential responsibilities.