Forum editorial: Politics on stage for 2016
No matter how bleak a picture is being painted by presidential candidates, the United States is not racing to hell in a handcart. No matter how toxic the rhetoric about the nation's flaws and alleged failures, the U.S. is economically strong, mil...
No matter how bleak a picture is being painted by presidential candidates, the United States is not racing to hell in a handcart. No matter how toxic the rhetoric about the nation’s flaws and alleged failures, the U.S. is economically strong, militarily unrivaled and when it comes to foundational values, a beacon for the rest of the planet.
So as the new year dawns, take heart. Americans are as feisty and quarrelsome as they have always been. In this era, however, the intensity of the debate is magnified by the manipulative lenses of social media, 24/7 cable news food fights and sensationalist headlines. That combination, in concert with a political climate that is overheated by opportunistic panderers, can create the impression the nation is in trouble. It’s not. It’s as vibrant as it has ever been in part because of the vitality and, yes, the harshness of political debate.
The nation’s strength derives from free-wheeling free speech – political and otherwise. The nature of American discourse requires offensive speech. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was not written to protect nice talk. It becomes meaningless when speech codes and speech police inhibit and punish rhetoric that offends.
If there is one lesson to consider at the start of a highly charged political year it is this: Our strength as a nation is based on the precious freedom to express ourselves. Whether it’s misogynist and racist rants from Donald Trump or smarmy half-truths from Hillary Clinton, the roiling brew of truth, lies, outrage and offense affirms the wisdom of the nation’s founders.
It ain’t pretty sometimes. But at its core, it’s a process infused with a spirit that is uniquely American. That is worth celebrating this first day of 2016 as the nation plunges into what promises to be one of the most divisive – and instructive – presidential campaigns in decades.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.