This presidential election is disturbing - so disturbing I've actually stopped watching coverage on the television, For a political junkie who has watched coverage of every election going back to Ronald Reagan, that's saying something.
Each prior election, I watched, I enjoyed, I fervently hoped my candidate would win. I cared about the issues, I followed every poll and trend. But this year, not so much.
What's going on?
It's a nasty election, of course, and both candidates are intensely disliked for various reasons. But it's not that. There's something deeper and more personal going on here.
I grew up in an abusive environment. Abuse is like pornography: I know it when I see it. Early on, I noticed that Donald Trump was abusive. I thought it was equally obvious to others, but apparently it's not.
What I realize now, with about forty-five days to go before the election, is that Donald Trump has been yanking on my abuse triggers and I've gotten so increasingly dismayed and upset that I can't even bear to watch.
Here's a list of some of the common traits of abusive people:
- Humiliates you in front of others.
- Blames you for his/her violent outbursts.
- Often blow up in anger at small incidents. He or she is often easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really very angry.
- Blame others for their own problems.
- Blame others for their own feelings and are very manipulative. An abusive person will often say "you make me mad", "you’re hurting me by not doing what I ask", or "I can’t help being angry".
- May be cruel to animals and/or children.
- May have a fascination with weapons.
- May think it is okay to solve conflicts with violence.
- Often make threats of violence, breaking or striking objects.
- May hold rigid stereotypical views of the roles of men and women. The abuser may see women as inferior to men, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.
- May say things that are intentionally cruel and hurtful in order to degrade, humiliate, or run down the victim’s accomplishments.
- Tend to be moody and unpredictable. They may be nice one minute and the next minute explosive. Explosiveness and mood swings are typical of men who beat their partners.
It's not just Donald Trump, mind you. Have you seen his army of surrogates out there on the television screens every single day, defending him, participating in his abusive behavior and trying to convince you that everything Trump does is perfectly fine, that if you don't get on the Trump Train, you're a loser?
At the end of the first presidential debate the other night, Trump did something very odd: He told Hillary Clinton that he had planned on bringing up her husband's infidelities and throwing them in her face, but he had decided not to. Then he wanted credit for being a nice guy and not hurting her in this fashion. He said he was doing this out of respect for her daughter Chelsea.
Think about that for a minute ...
Trump and his surrogates routinely lie, but if you call them on the lies, they turn the tables and claim "liberal media bias." In other words, you're the bad person for calling them on their lies.
This is a favorite tactic of abusers. When you call them on their behavior, they turn it around and make you the bad guy. They refuse to take responsibility for what they've done. Instead, they blame others and try to make you feel like you're wrong.
Day after day in this election, Trump and his surrogates are out there using racist, coded language, but again: If you call them on it, you're the bad guy for "playing the race card."
In a way, Trump's entire campaign is like an abusive spouse -- and we're the ones being bruised and battered.
Look at the premise of that campaign: Trump wants to make America great "again." As though we're not great. As though we're all losers because we're not doing things his way. He uses the word "loser" liberally and often. He has accused just about everyone in government of being losers. He says our military is "disgusting." He says our elected officials are "stupid." In his outreach to African Americans, he tells them their communities are crime-ridden hell holes, their schools are terrible, their lives are hell - so "what the hell do they have to lose" by supporting him?
I don't think we've ever had a candidate like this, a man who insults and bullies and denigrates everyone and everything. A man who mocked a reporter with a disability. A man who calls a woman a "fat pig." A man who attacks a Gold Star family. A man who lies so often and with such gusto that the fact checkers simply can't keep up. A man who insults voters by refusing to release his tax returns or be transparent about his own business dealings. An unbelievably arrogant man who stood in front of his national convention and claimed he was the only person who could fix America's problems. A man who told a religious audience he has nothing to ask forgiveness for. A man who refuses to apologize for the horrid things he says.
Jesus said it best: "By their fruits, you shall know them."
What are the "fruits" of Donald Trump? Have you seen what goes on at his rallies? Have you seen the hateful, ugly things his supporters say on social media? Have you seen the number of endorsements he has picked up from groups like the KKK?
It's telling: Not one former (or current) president of the United States has endorsed Donald Trump. Not one plans to vote for him. Not even the former presidents in his own party. If a former president doesn't know what's best for this country, who does? There was also a story recently about how not one of the Fortune 100 CEOs have contributed a dime to Trump's campaign. Again, very telling. If he's such a fantastic business guy, why won't his fellow CEOs get behind him? Or so they know things about him that we don't know?
For more than a year now, the media have been fawning over Donald Trump. They have his surrogates sitting there on the set for each and every discussion, surrogates who have been given endless amounts of time to spin away each and every terrible thing Trump has said and done. We are told this is to ensure fairness and balance, but actually all they've done is serve as enablers for an abusive man.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Let me try to be clear.
I grew up in an abusive environment. I watched my parents scream at each other. I watched physical violence with guns and knives. I watched my mother get battered. I got battered myself. One night it was so bad my older sister carried me and my brother outside, in the middle of winter, and hid in a ditch to make sure our drunken, enraged father didn't kill us.
I know abuse when I see it. I know abusers. I know how they make you feel. They hold the cards, they're in a position of power, and all you can do is cower before them. The police are supposed to be on your side, but often they're not. They don't want to get involved. They're like the media today: They don't want to tell it like it is. They don't want to risk anything on your behalf.
Is Donald Trump as bad as all that? You tell me. Pardon me if I don't want a man like that with his finger on the nuclear trigger.
I realize now that I've had to stop watching election coverage because it reminds me of too many bad things - things I've seen way too much of. This entire election cycle has been massively dysfunctional and unhealthy on so many levels. The phrase "national embarrassment" just doesn't cover it. If we are truly a great country, we deserve so much better.
There's something else I know about abuse: Eventually the truth will reveal itself. People get sick of being gaslighted, abused, made to feel they're stupid losers. People catch on and begin to see the abuser for what he is.
For all of our sakes, let's hope this happens before election day.