If you watched presidential candidate Joe Biden on 60 Minutes the other day, you heard the former vice president call the president of the United States “an idiot.” If you were at Nationals Park for World Series Game 5, you heard the crowd booing and chanting, “Lock him up!” And this from those who incessantly rail against the vulgarity and crudeness of President Trump. Could it be that Trump has finally given a voice to these folks in their sanitized political wilderness?
Remember Michelle Obama’s rallying cry in the last election: “When they go low, we go high”? After a few short years, the high road appears to be quite desolate. Perhaps Dems have evolved Michelle’s call into: “When they go low, we go lower.”
The left has promulgated a rule — a longstanding supposition that it created — that U.S. presidents must speak with decorum in a genteel tone. This fallacious notion is used as a hammer to bludgeon President Trump. To Dems, he is vulgarian-in-chief.
But perhaps a little American history is in order. Presidents have been making outrageous statements dating back to the founding of this nation. Crude, lewd, and racist remarks have been made by Commanders-in-Chiefs, Democrats and Republicans. For example:
- Lyndon Baines Johnson: “I’ll have those [n-word] voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”
- Teddy Roosevelt: “Criminals should be sterilized, and feeble-minded persons forbidden to leave offspring behind them.”
- Harry S Truman: “I went [n-word] chasing again on Monday.”
- James Garfield: “I have a strong feeling of repugnance when I think of the Negro being made our political equal.”
- Barack Obama: “… they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
- Abraham Lincoln: “I have urged the colonization of the Negroes [in Africa] and shall continue.”
The Washington Post’s Annie Linskey asks a salient question on this issue: “Give Trump his own medicine or stick to the high road?” In an article published on Oct. 29, she quotes Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who doesn’t think the Dems should go low. Then she cites the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden, who says, “Trump is a street fighter, and if you’re not ready to fight in the street, you should get out of the way.”
Methinks there is confusion in the Democratic ranks.
Dems’ Moral Dilemma
Indeed, it does appear the public discourse on the left is conflicted. Should it be “Do as I say” or “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”? Linskey poses a relevant query:
“The debate reflects Democrats’ dilemma on how to channel the volcanic energy gathering on the left. Is it best to energize the party base by deploying Trump’s own weapons against him, or should Democrats seek to show that their party occupies the higher ground?”
“At its root,” Linskey continues, “the debate reflects an uncertainty among Democrats about how to grapple with a political phenomenon they find disorienting and traumatic.” Could it be that something called “the permission concept” is at play here? It’s a behavior identified by psychologists that goes something like this: “If they can do it/say it, then so can I.”
Or is it something else? It is entirely possible that supporters of the president don’t so much find his remarks vulgar as that he verbalizes what they are thinking. In other words, not lewd and loutish but irreverently honest.
It’s patently untrue that Trump has opened a spoken political Pandora’s box: Harsh language has always been part of the American political lexicon. And it’s doubtful all Democrats will pull back and take the verbal moral high ground some espouse so vociferously. This is because some know it is effective and, quite frankly, what the voters want to hear. Either way, they would be wise to halt the phony talk about presidential decorum and stop calling out Trump for his crudity in an atmosphere saturated with the distinct aroma of hypocrisy.