With Trump, Politics Have No Rules

With the help of his supporters, the Republican candidate continues to insult his Democrat rival. But there are many on both sides who deplore the verbal hostility of this campaign.

On the topic of bombed hospitals in Syria, the United Nations secretary-general stated a few months ago that “even in war there are rules.” On the subject of the American presidential campaign, it is tempting to say that “even in politics there are rules,” as it seems that the basic principles of civility have been sacrificed. “Such a nasty woman” was one of Donald Trump’s remarks this week, during the third and final televised debate with his rival. Hillary Clinton’s barb about the fact that the billionaire pays little (i.e. doesn’t pay any) federal taxes provoked this insult. The use of the word “nasty,” which was judged particularly sexist, has sparked a strong reaction, but no surprise, as personal attacks are currency in this increasingly unsavory race for the White House.

On Friday evening, Trump held a meeting in the small, northwestern Pennsylvania town of Newtown. In a half hour speech, he found the time to call the former secretary of state “stupid,” a “liar” and “the most corrupt candidate in history,” much to his supporters’ delight.* In the crowd, other than the emblematic “Make America Great Again” red baseball caps, many were wearing T-shirts stamped with the name of Hillary Clinton: “Hillary in prison,” “Proud to Hate Hillary” or even “Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Vote for One.” This is indicative of a frosty relationship that has further deteriorated this month, as Trump and Clinton have exchanged only three handshakes in as many debates: two during the first debate at the end of September (before and after), just one during the second one (at the end) and not a single handshake this week during their third meeting. The fact that the nominees of the two big American political parties could not even share this basic gesture of courtesy shows the extent of the difficulties the winner could face in reuniting the country, which is now more polarized than ever.

While many of Trump’s supporters, galvanized by their hero, have adopted his anti-Clinton, anti-establishment rhetoric, many Democrats and certain Republicans, on the other hand, deplore this campaign’s verbal hostility. Some even openly show their nostalgia for bygone times. This week a letter left in the Oval Office in January 1993 by George H.W. Bush for his successor Bill Clinton has been circulated on social media. “I wish you great happiness here… don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course,” the departing president wrote. The final sentence of this handwritten letter is undoubtedly the most striking, with regard to the current context: “You will be our president when you read this note … Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck.” The Pakistani businesswoman who published this letter on Twitter declared, “A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, politics had grace.” Not this year.

* Editor’s Note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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