Some Republicans are very fond of lecturing the country on the importance of personal responsibility. Serving a long jail sentence for a minor drug offense? It's your fault for getting involved with drugs in the first place. Requesting unemployment benefits beyond the 72 weeks now allowed by law? You must be lazy and aren't serious about getting a job. A single mother of four struggling to live on welfare? Well, you should have thought about this before having those babies.
Currently we find ourselves in one of the most chaotic Republican presidential campaigns in history. When a certain candidate entered the race, he found it necessary to insult Mexicans and say reprehensible things about women, a war hero and a handicapped journalist. The so-called GOP debates have been more like watching "The Jerry Springer Show," filled with taunts, hyperbolic claims, threats and a level of vulgarity new to presidential politics. And now we have a candidate's rallies punctuated by mob violence and assaults, and a journalist forcibly ejected for asking an inconvenient question.
Like a corrosive acid, some of this obnoxious behavior has spilled over into workplace conversations and friends' email exchanges. Regretfully, it has even touched our schools. The press has carried reports about white children at a basketball game in Indiana taunting opposing Latino basketball players with "build a wall," "no comprende" and "speak English." In Iowa, students led a "Trump, Trump" chant throughout a game featuring Latinos until the players yelled back they were born in Iowa, too!
Of course, all of this should be appalling to anyone with a modicum of manners, class and proper deportment. Even St. Ronald's recently deceased wife earlier bemoaned the current state of politics in the GOP. And on March 17, the president himself critiqued this toxic campaign by warning against "vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities" and "Americans who don't look like us or pray like us… ."
In a perfect world, one might hope that the prime agents behind these politics of hate would come to their senses and assume full responsibility for what they have spawned, but don't hold your breath. Why have to lift the mirror up to yourself when you still have President Obama to kick around?
Incredibly, Sen. Marco Rubio, he of the crude, schoolyard taunts of Trump, has blamed this repugnant and dysfunctional political culture on the nation's leader. Rubio has claimed, "There's no doubt" the president shared responsibility for the nasty rhetoric and violence that is playing out this campaign season. When asked how in the world this could be so, Rubio had to reach back five years to an April 2011 speech when Obama criticized the GOP budget proposal for threatening to change "the basic social compact in America." This proposal cut funds for Pell grants for college students; called for the eventual elimination of home buyer subsidies from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; repealed the Affordable Care Act; slashed Medicaid; and privatized Medicare. Well Marco, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, there's no need to consult an ornithologist.
Rush Limbaugh has jumped into the blame game by going all the way back to 2008 when then-candidate Obama urged his supporters, "to argue with [friends and neighbors] and get in their face" to convince them of his candidacy. Wow! There must be a lot of researchers burning the midnight oil to try to pin this debacle of an election on the president.
And if you want another scapegoat, there's always George Soros. The billionaire financier, who spent millions ensuring that the former Eastern Bloc countries adopted representative government, also supports a host of liberal organizations, like MoveOn.org. He is also now being accused of funding the violent protests at Trump rallies; no evidence required.
My biggest fear about the tenor of this presidential race is that it is setting a dangerous pattern for years to come. Politics is a copy-cat profession, and its practitioners tend to adopt tactics that are seen to work. PBS "NewsHour" commentator and syndicated columnist Mark Shields opined that Trump's coarse behavior and parallel rise in the polls are not going unnoticed by politicians. If Trump succeeds, it will be like "heroin in the bloodstream," and they'll emulate his tactics in future elections. Then we'll all be left wondering, "What hath Trump wrought?"
Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.