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The end of political civility

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/9/2016 (329 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There may be another reason for Canadians to feel a sense of pride about their country. On Monday night, Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton faced off for the first time in an American presidential debate.

It was so bad, retired journalist Dan Rather wrote: "Ladies and gentlemen, whatever civility once existed in our politics is tonight officially dead. Never in the history of televised debates have we witnessed such a show. And that’s what the Donald wanted. A show. He got it, but will he be seen as the hero or the villain?"

PATRICK SEMANSKY / THE ASSOCIATE PRESS</p><p>Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump </p>


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump

The debate ran longer than the scheduled 90 minutes. Mr. Trump interrupted, bullied and railed against Mrs. Clinton, who was rational, concise and calm.

Yet, despite her performance, the right attacked her for being too prepared and smiling as if she were at her granddaughter’s second birthday party.

Mrs. Clinton talked policy. Mr. Trump used the word "absolutely" a lot and was resolutely unclear. 

It is hard to understand how politics has come to this, how the most powerful country in the world can be on the precipice of electing a man who has such a thin grasp on reality, but it is.

Mr. Trump has effectively portrayed the American people as being treated unfairly, something he spoke about at great length Monday. Jobs are being taken by Mexico and China. Free trade is hurting the economy. American allies are not paying their fair share for U.S. protection.

While his arguments are generalized, nebulous and often predicated on falsehoods, the tone is the same. Feel sorry for the U.S., which is being treated horribly by everyone. The "poor me" routine continued Tuesday morning. Mr. Trump blamed the microphone and the host for his own lacklustre performance.

For the most part, he has successfully caught wind of the mood of many Americans. He has become the poster child for anyone who feels the American dream is now a nightmare and future generations have no hope of having better lives than their parents.

Yet, he admitted Monday he doesn’t pay taxes and that’s what makes him smart. That’s the joke: he’s suckered an entire segment of the American population into believing he’s one of them.

Meanwhile, every time Mrs. Clinton speaks positively about the American economy, about the importance of trade, she strengthens his cause, particularly for those who haven’t experienced a resurgence in the economy or a return to prosperity. 

It’s easy to watch the presidential election from the cheap seats, eating Skittles and being more than a bit smug that this couldn’t happen in Canada. However, if Mr. Trump wins the election Nov. 8, our relationship with our number one trading partner could be fundamentally changed.

The expectation of the western world to look to an American leader capable of speaking with diplomacy and tact will be gone. Americans who want an end to a slow economy and a return to wealth may be sorely disappointed.

This election could fundamentally change the United States and its position as a world leader.

Canada and the rest of the world have a lot at stake, too.

We really may be at the end of civility in politics. 


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Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press' editorial board.


Updated on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 7:24 PM CDT: corrected election date

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