Last night, like millions of other Americans, I sat down and tuned in to yet another republican presidential debate — and just like so many of them, I thought to myself, Brace yourself.
It’s been this way pretty much since the election cycle kicked off. Except, because I’m a mom of two, I had one other thought flash through my mind before watching: Better get the ear muffs or make sure the kids are nowhere in sight, because who knows what disparaging remarks might be thrown around this time.
During this especially heated campaign — where the stakes have been higher than ever — one thing has been made strikingly clear: Many of the candidates don’t seem to care about setting a good example for the children of our country. And I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re on, or where your thoughts and feelings lie about the issues in particular; I know I’m not alone in thinking this.
But it’s unfortunate that many parents in particular feel they need to put the kids to bed early, or usher them out of the room, just to watch people who are trying to become the next president duke it out on national TV. Especially when he blows have become so low.
And it’s a shame not just for the candidates themselves (because man, do they look ridiculous up there); it’s a shame for our kids, too.
Learning about our ever-evolving country is something parents used to take pride in watching their children do. Hearing about the issues, exploring our freedoms (including where we need to do better) is important. It’s why teachers urge kids to listen and to care about what’s going on around them — in our country and in the world. It’s why parents bring their kids with them to watch them vote and talk about important issues around the dinner table that affect our lives every day.
And where better to see this in action, then by watching our would-be leaders take the debate stage and speak about those very issues?
But these days, many of us would rather they didn’t. Not when the mudslinging and the name-calling has become so unrelenting, it’s uncomfortable to even watch. Many of us are scrambling to find the mute button when those all-too-familiar faces come on the TV. We’re turning down the car radio, we’re hoping they mind their damn manners.
But so often, we’re let down.
At the heart of every debate, there are really important issues waiting to be explored — like women’s rights, the economy, gun laws, taxes, and foreign affairs. At least that’s what the debates used to be about. But now, at least for some candidates, the focus has drifted so far from the real issues it’s mind-boggling. The focus now is on the (usually bad) behavior of these suited-up “gentlemen,” who at this point look more like they’re playing dress-up than anything else. They have the entire world listening, and yet, if you ask me they’re acting like giant babies wearing fancy ties and jackets.
They look like they’re about to clobber one another. They have no tact, no class, no manners … and it appears, no self-respect, either.
And so, it’s become abundantly clear — these are no role models for our kids. Not yours. Not mine. Not anyone’s. Even on her worst day, my 6-year-old behaves better than some of our presidential candidates do on their best. She’s a spirited kid, but even she knows better than to name-call.
“We should tell them that’s not very nice!” she’d say if I asked her. And she’d be right. It most certainly is not very nice.
We all know politics can sometimes get ugly, but the low-blows taking place during this election have reached rock bottom. They’re skewing the truth, they’re name-calling, they’re mocking one another and whining any time they are criticized or called out. They’re even making clear and deliberate references to the size of their you-know-whats.
Okay, well maybe just one of them — one of them who seems to have the emotional disposition of an angry toddler, if you ask me.
I’ve read that the reason voters say they like Donald Trump — by far the most outspoken candidate — is because of the very fact that he doesn’t play by the rules; that he’s not a politician. And to some extent, I get that argument. But here’s the thing: He’s running for president, so that makes him a politician whether he likes it or not. He’s not a reality TV show host anymore, he’s a candidate for the presidency of the United States. At some point, we have to care about his behavior and his choice of words. At some point, we have to take how he addresses our country seriously.
Someone who can’t even get through a debate or a TV interview without mocking women, minority groups, or his fellow candidates, is quite simply, pretty hard to digest.
And what message does that send our kids, when we’re simultaneously trying to teach them that treating others with kindness and respect is so important? It might even be the most important thing we ever teach them. We talk to them about right from wrong, and how to play fair from the earliest ages. Campaigns and social movements to #stopbullying are everywhere these days, because most people in this country recognize that it’s important to practice kindness, acceptance, and humility. But not all of our candidates play by those rules. We don’t see those traits and those ideas being played out in the political arena — at least not for the most part; not anymore.
To say I’m disappointed and saddened by all of this would be an understatement. But honestly, that’s not even a political argument — it’s simply one about human decency.
No matter what we disagree on politically in this country, I think most of us can agree that the politicians of today have some work to do before they could ever be considered positive role models. Right now, they are far from it.
But if there’s anyone who should be modeling how to treat people, it should be the men and women who stand up on stage and ask us for their votes.More On