The Dangerous Debate Spin You Can’t Afford To Ignore

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The first presidential debate of the 2016 election season was shocking for many reasons, not the least of which because Donald Trump managed to (sort of) refrain from directly attacking Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelities. Oozing irony aside, it was far more than reality show-grade entertainment. It had a very real impact on our national conversation—as it should.

But, unlike most events of its caliber, this one inspired post debate spin that shunned conversations on policy and implementation in favor of elementary level mud slinging. And I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill political drama. What Trump surrogates resorted to after a humiliating defeat speaks directly to our children and their sense of self worth. In attacking Hillary Clinton for her preparedness and competency, they opened a veritable Pandora’s box with far reaching implications.

Of course, it’s easy to blame Trump. Crass, disrespectful, unapologetic, unfiltered — and no, that does not simply equate to political correctness — he invites criticism at every turn. And he has definitely done his part to elevate this ridiculous conversation. But laying this issue at his feet would be dangerously short-sighted.

The truth is, it’s his surrogates – and, indeed, the Republican party at large – who are at fault for perpetuating this grossly unfair narrative. While the most egregious offenders like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani acted as veritable cheerleaders for this outrageous line of attack, it’s the leaders of the party who remain culpable in their silence.

To be fair, Christie sincerely believes that fact checkers have an agenda and continually refers to Clinton as “missus” instead of using the more appropriate title of “secretary” while Giuliani seems to have forgotten being Mayor of New York during the 9/11 attacks and has stooped to peddling conspiracy theories with regard to Clinton’s health; so expectations for these two are embarrassingly low at this point anyway. Still, attacks such as these only serve to further degrade the public’s perception of the GOP.

Republican elites have consistently failed to uphold their self-proclaimed monopoly on morality and family values throughout this campaign. And, without question, the burden this year is unusually hefty. Still, there is always a choice. There is always the opportunity to speak up for truth and speak out against absurdity. But they have instead yielded to a short-tempered bully who they know to be ill prepared and uninterested in changing.

Let’s be clear: the President of the United States should be well prepared, should care enough to study, and should articulate policy proposals in detail. These are foundational tenets of the job. The person who leads this country should absolutely be able to demonstrate competency on every level; and because most of us aren’t walking encyclopedias, that takes time and dedication.

It shouldn’t matter whether Hillary sounds robotic and rehearsed. And one’s judgement of her affability should barely register as a determinative factor. Listen, this election isn’t a giant audition for the title of “America’s Greatest Drinking Buddy.” All appearances to the contrary, this really isn’t a reality show.

Focus. Focus on what really matters.

Our kids are listening. They are receiving these carefully crafted messages and absorbing them. How are we to justify attacks against a candidate for preparedness while simultaneously extolling the virtues of hard work and studiousness to our children? It’s an indefensible position but one for which we must take up arms anyway.

The truly worrying aspect to this sinister spin is that it won’t die with this debate or the next. It won’t fade into oblivion once the election has been decided or when the next oath of office is taken. The problem with this particular attack, this public contempt for intellectual stamina and disciplined study, is that its insinuation will follow every prominent Republican until a new generation takes their place. That leaves years, even decades, during which they will be continually forced to defend this position, allowing its poisonous message to saturate our media.

Damage has already been done, for sure, but its depth remains to be seen. With two debates left in this election cycle, there’s not doubt the Trump campaign will continue to malign competency as unappealing. I urge you to really focus. Forget the spin. Forget the drama. Focus on the facts, on what drives quality dialogue. Because if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the weak defense of a disastrously unprepared candidate, we strip the other of the well deserved opportunity to contrast that ineptitude with truly presidential traits.

As members of the electorate, we deserve better and should demand as much. Recognizing the danger in this post debate debacle is important but so is using your own voice to elevate the conversation. Indeed, without momentum, the spin will stop.


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A Vote Against Trump Is A Vote For My Daughter

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I’m not usually a single issue voter and I would be lying if I said the sum total of my political views doesn’t place me squarely on the left. Still, I can usually differentiate those views from the opposing party’s candidate. I can see in him (or her) a person with a vastly different understanding of the world while also seeing an actual person. I can evaluate policy platforms on merit without hideous character distractions. And, normally, my commitment to vote is more an observance of civic duty than a moral and practical imperative. Usually, the stakes don’t feel quite so high. There is nothing usual about this year.

This year, a vote against Donald Trump is a vote for my daughter. It’s a vote for integrity—for respect and possibility. It’s a vote for the the preservation of her bright future and all the values my husband and I are working so hard to instill. It’s a vote born of love; because when she was first placed in my arms, I made a silent vow to protect her always and I intend to keep it.

Perhaps that sounds excessive and maybe it is—but I’m not willing to take that chance.

Every morning I watch her step onto a yellow school bus, carefree and confident, trusting that I will be standing there when that same bus drops her off in the afternoon. Each evening at dinner she begrudgingly eats her vegetables, trusting me when I explain their importance in helping her body grow strong. And when she lays her head on her pillow, enveloped in darkness, she trusts that I will be the first thing she sees when her eyes flutter open once more.

She trusts me with her whole being. And on that matter alone, a vote for Trump is out of the question.

It’s no secret that election seasons are not just messy but, often, hard-fought, low-down, grimy brawls. Insults are flung. Facts are distorted. Lies are finessed into palatable soundbites. With time, every issue, every platform, becomes a sticky web of convolution. Nothing makes sense because months of masterful marketing force us to question even our most basic principles in the name of a vote.

It’s an easy trap to fall into but we don’t have to take the bait. Please, allow yourself the dignity of stepping outside this moment in time. Picture yourself one year, four years, and ten years from now. Will you find shame in your vote this year? Will you be able to explain your vote to your daughters, nieces, granddaughters—even the ones who don’t yet exist? Will you be able to tell them honestly that you considered their futures when stepping into the voting booth?

Declaring oneself a single issue voter can usually be described as short-sighted. We all have positions that we hold dear, that seem to define our political outlook. But, on the whole, we are taught to simply factor them into the bigger picture. Usually, this helps maintain party unity and we inevitably rest our feet along whatever side of the aisle has always felt most comfortable. This is not a usual year. There should be no comfort found in casually towing party lines. This year, you owe it to every woman in your life to become a single issue voter.

My daughter is four years old today. She would be eight—or even twelve—at the end of a Trump presidency. Those are years I refuse to sacrifice. They are formative years, too important to ignore when choosing between our current nominees. Today, my daughter happily plays make believe and snuggles with her blankie at night. She is impossibly innocent. But, over the course of the next administration, she will undoubtedly gain a much clearer understanding of the world around her. What kind of world will it be?

A 2015 report by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media found that body image issues begin as young as five years old. Let that sink in a moment. Five. Yet we have a presidential candidate who routinely and repeatedly degrades women, calling them fat pigs, gold diggers, and dogs. He is a man who happily declared in a 1993 interview with Howard Stern that he does not respect women and who spent the better part of the 90’s crowing publicly over his infidelity and sexual conquests. This is a man who has given the American public every reason to believe that he sees women as objects for personal gratification, amusement, and exploitation. A Trump presidency is an invitation for my daughter to see herself in the same light. Am I willing to risk that? Absolutely not.

It boggles the mind that anyone could ascend this far up the political ladder being so blatant in his misogyny, to say nothing of his indisputably shallow understanding of American policy and foreign relations. But, then again, this is an unusual year—terrifyingly so.

Trump lackeys claim that his public persona is merely that—a simple media ploy. They claim he can assume the dignity of the office should he be handed the keys. They say his employment of women somehow negates his offensive comments and that the success of his daughter Ivanka provides an irrefutable testament to his character. All these assertions require a type of mental gymnastics I simply don’t have the stamina to entertain. The truth is, he has shown his hand—repeatedly, vociferously, and unapologetically. The flagrant misogyny he boasts has not abated throughout this campaign so why are we to believe he could maintain the dignity of the office?

Because my daughter is my entire world, I refuse to look the other way. I will not stand idly by and hope he magically transforms into a better example for our youth. To do so would be to betray my daughter’s trust and void every empowering word I have ever uttered in her name.

In an election season wrought with intensity and confusion, I do know this:

Words matter. Actions matter. Kindness matters.

I may have never considered myself a single issue voter before but, hey, this is an unusual year. This year, the only thing that matters when I cast my vote is the future of my daughter. She will be taught the value of words, the impact of her actions, and the virtue of kindness. And my sincerest hope is that her next president—likely the first she will remember—reinforces those lessons. That future remains in our grasp but only if we all decide to vote for our girls, to be their voices in this darkness.

My daughter trusts me and I refuse to let her down.


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