Like so many Americans, I have been greatly bothered – even rattled – by the current presidential election. The circus-like atmosphere, and concerning allegations on both sides has turned me, a bonafide political junkie, off to a degree that I would never have expected. There have been hard-fought presidential elections before where the candidates have spewed nasty words and attacks at one another. The 24-hour news cycle we live in has ensured that we all know every sex scandal and personal wrongdoing of nearly every politician and celebrity in the country. None of this is new. So why have I been so deeply disturbed by what I have seen and heard throughout this election process?
Last week, while attending a speech given by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian David McCullough, I was finally able to put my finger on the source of my woes. When asked by a member of the audience what he thought of the current political landscape, McCullough said, “In all our years as a country, we have never had a president who was not a gentleman.” While obviously, we have never had a female president before; his comment had nothing to do with chromosomes. Traits such as humility, civility, and grace are synonymous with what we hold a ‘gentleman’ to be. These are high ideals which should be demonstrated by anyone seeking to hold the highest office in our land – male or female. I realized that it was not the tenor of the race that was impacting me to such a degree or even the personalities involved, but rather the stakes of victory.
If Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were battling it out for any ho-hum job in government or corporate America, people might take notice, but the race would surely not produce the strong, visceral reactions and behaviors that we are seeing today from voters like me. It is because this is the ultimate race – our presidential election – that I feel both embarrassed and revolted. The sanctity of the presidency is at stake and with it the reputation of our country and our people in the world. So on November 8, I would encourage Americans to cast their vote based on this gentleman litmus test. Regardless of whether the ultimate victor is male (Donald) or female (Hillary), let’s hope a true ‘gentleman’ prevails.