Daily Herald opinion: Divided nation needs to see respect, reason in 2024 presidential campaign

  • Former President Donald Trump gestures Tuesday after announcing at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach that he will run for president in 2024.

    Former President Donald Trump gestures Tuesday after announcing at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach that he will run for president in 2024. Associated Press Photo

 
Updated 11/17/2022 6:42 AM

Since long before 2016, we have never made a secret of our belief that Donald Trump was not fit to be president either before or after he was elected. But it's not merely the question of his fitness as a leader that concerns us as we contemplate a new Trump campaign only a week shy of a full two years before the 2024 election. It's more the worry about what to expect in American politics during those two years.

Conventional wisdom has it that the 2022 midterms were a referendum on Donald Trump, and one he lost decisively. But a more precise examination of the results suggests that it wasn't Trump himself that voters in races across the country were rejecting but the politics of personality and division that he has promoted. One can take little comfort in contemplating a renewed two years of such ugly animosity.

 

Our nation is riven by deep cultural and political disagreements. That is a reality demanding a special kind of leadership and years of considered, reasoned, respectful debate to breach. It would be naive in the extreme to believe that any political leader on the horizon can close the gap completely and bring the country to a single unified consensus about the direction and management of our government.

But we know very well that Trump is the antithesis of what is needed, and is more inclined to widen the gaps between us than to close them. And, his rhetoric both in office and since leaving office have only served to emphasize that point.

The presidential campaign of 2024 will surely be filled with passion and urgency on both sides, and there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, passionate debate is a foundational component of our nation's political makeup.

But those passions also must be tempered by a belief in our democratic system, faith in our fundamental institutions -- especially our elections -- and respect for the rights of our fellow citizens to think and feel differently, with the ballot box as our final arbiter.

With the exception of some extremists on both sides of the political divide, the nation has tired of violent rhetoric, personal insults and bitter disruption. We long for stability. Not that we'll give up anything to get it, but we know instinctively that righting the current ship of state is not going to come about by everyone jumping up and down and pushing each other around, but by sitting down together and speaking to each other with a measure of respect and understanding.

That is not the style of Donald Trump, and it is not the style he brought to his announcement Tuesday, which, although understated in tone, was littered with hyperbole, misstatements and personal insults. Whether Trump actually manages to remain at the front of the Republican ticket or some other figure emerges to take the party mantle, that is not the tenor of the campaign we -- or, we believe, America -- want to contemplate, and it is precisely the opposite of the tenor of the campaign the nation needs to hear.

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