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-Billie Joe Armstrong
Like consumer safety in a deregulated market, basic decency has been discarded as the Republican candidates for president have engaged in a race to the bottom in an attempt to secure their party's base. Donald Trump fired the starting gun with attacks on Mexican immigrants and has continued to set the pace by mimicking a reporter with disabilities.
Ted Cruz seemed to challenge President Obama to a schoolyard brawl when he stated "I want to encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face." When the New York Times reported that Ben Carson's advisor, Duane R. Clarridge, told them that "Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so 'we can make him smart,'" the Carson campaign chastised the Times for taking "advantage of an elderly gentleman."
Chris Christie one upped Cruz's declaration that our country should only admit Syrian refugees who are Christians because "there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror," by maintaining that even "orphans under age 5" pose a risk and should be excluded from entering our country in search of refuge.
Carly Fiorina continues to maintain that she saw an anti-Planned Parenthood video that does not exist while Trump stands by his claim that he "watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And...in Jersey City, New Jersey...thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down." As proof, he "links to Infowars.com, a conspiracy website that pushes the idea that 9/11 was an insidejob...the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax, FEMA is setting up concentration camps and Andrew Breitbart was assassinated to prevent the release of damaging information about Barack Obama."
Apparently Bobby Jindal's calls for the Republicans to "stop being the stupid party" have been ignored. The party was supposed to reverse their trend of losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections by repairing their relationship with women, minorities and immigrants. Instead, Republican candidates have continued to "damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments" and the party's supporters have rewarded them for doing so.
Trump's attacks on Mexicans, prisoners of war, women, Seventh Day Adventists, the disabled and the truth seem to fuel his candidacy and he has consistently led the Republican field since entering the race. The Republican party's electorate is poised to ignore the changing demographics of the November electorate and embrace the politics of "white paranoia." They are doubling down on stupidity.
While it is easy to dismiss a Trump supporter who answers the question "Do you trust him," with "Yes, I do. Explicitly. I read his book. Crippled America. You gotta read the book," as a low information voter wrapped up in the cult of personality, it is this lack of intellectual depth that should be concerning to every American. Trump is a non-politician running for an office whose responsibilities include access to the nuclear arsenal, but instead of running a campaign with actual policy ideals, he is presenting the second coming of Beatlemania. He refers to his supporters as "fans," and these fans have shown that they are willing to take his verbal bullying one step further with physical violence. While chanting "all lives matter," they beat the crap out of a black man in Birmingham while allegedly calling him a "n-word [and a] monkey." Trump could be heard encouraging the violence on the video as it happened, and said the next day that maybe the protester "should have been roughed up."
Video footage of another Trump rally captured attendees shouting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as a protester was dragged and kicked. It only seems like a matter of time before this physical anger is directed toward the press corps who are regularly ridiculed for daring to probe into Trump's actions and positions.
It is a cliche to say that an upcoming election is the most important ever, but 2016 is shaping up to actually live up to the billing. Unless the Republican primaries bring a positive change to the campaign, the November election could be a fight for the soul of our country. Our history is filled with horrifying mistakes that stain our national DNA. However, our greatness lies in learning from these mistakes and taking steps to ensure that our future will be greater than our past.