The main thing that worries me about this campaign is whether it will ever actually end. I’m not talking about the campaigning, the ads, the slogans, the debates. I mean the bald hatred that’s been unleashed.
I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime. I know that some have blithely trotted out the hateful things that candidates have said in the past—even the distant past—as if that somehow makes the current trash acceptable or understandable. It doesn’t. The excesses of campaigns of the past pale by comparison to the virulent hatred that’s been unleashed this time.
I don’t need to recap all the bile that’s been spewed by the Palin-McCain campaign and the Republican Party. The mainstream media has been exposing it for what it is, including the barely-disguised racist subtext of much of their rhetoric. But it’s their supporters who have ramped up this hatred to a near-frenzy—to the extent that even John McCain was booed when he tried to tamp down some of his supporters’ expressed hatred of Barack Obama.
This didn’t originate with John McCain or Sarah Palin. They’re only doing what Karl Rove did with great success in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and less successfully in 2006; it’s the same slash and burn politics of Newt Gingrich and even reaches back to the fervent partisanship of the Reagan years. But over the past eight years, the Internet has exploded, bringing a plethora of places for like-minded people to gather and spew hatred, lies, smears and abundant conspiracy theories.
Just as McCain didn’t create the climate of hate, neither did the Internet. Both simply provided an outlet for what was already there. America is a deeply divided nation in which polarisation is the norm. That’s a topic in itself.
Here’s the thing: The vast majority of Americans are decent people, prepared to be fair-minded, given half a chance, but they’ve been brow-beaten by politicians and by right-wing media bent on fomenting division and demanding—if not agreement, then silence.
I’m not saying anything here that mainstream politicians don’t already know. Even John McCain knows it. You could see the anguished look on his face when one of his supporters said she didn’t trust Barack Obama because "he's an Arab”. Maybe at that moment he realised exactly what his campaign had created. But that’s the problem: Neither mainstream politicians nor John McCain are willing or able to put things right.
I don’t know who the real John McCain is anymore, and, quite frankly, I no longer care. If he and the Alaska Governor are willing to pander to the basest elements of society, if they’re willing to use prejudice and bigotry to win electoral office, then they don’t deserve those offices, and they deserve to lose in a landslide. America is better than that—it deserves better than that.