Presidential candidates must move away from personal attacks

Nahila Bonfiglio

The 2016 presidential race has had quite a few memorable moments that beg the question: How will it be remembered? Will the victor in November be remembered for their policy, or will the only recollection that we have of Trump in 2016 — besides the crumbling remains of a gaudy tower — be the rhetoric he used to describe the people both in and outside of the U.S.? 

This much is certain: Never have we seen two people running for such a prestigious office treat their opponents with such a lack of respect. Clinton may not be as guilty of this as Trump, but both candidates have taken large steps away from a discussion of policy and instead have focused on their opponents’ negative qualities as a campaigning style.

As an electorate, we find ourselves faced with a crucial decision in November. However, given the structure of both campaigns, the choice seems to be more with who not to vote for rather than who to vote for. The election cycle has been a vortex of headlines: Clinton bashing Trump for his racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric, Trump firing back with insinuations about Clinton’s health and even encouraging violence against her with a nod to “second amendment people.” 

Juliet Hooker, associate professor of government and African and African diaspora studies, said that negative campaigning is quite normal for a presidential campaign, despite general public disapproval.

“Voters always say that they don’t like negative campaigning, but they respond to it, which is why politicians do it,” Hooker said.

However, Hooker pointed out that this campaign cycle is anything but normal.

“Describing this as negative campaigning is too mild,” Hooker said. “Talking about racism [and] sexism in the campaign is being negative, but it is happening to an unprecedented degree, so how do you call that out without that being seen as being negative?” 

There is a ridiculous idea arising that Mr. Trump has begun acting “presidential” — let’s not fool ourselves, neither one of them is being presidential. In an effort to avoid the recent media faux pas of equalizing faults, let it be noted that Trump is far more guilty of this than Clinton. The problems that weigh on the minds of American citizens are often touched on at the beginning of a speech, only to be pushed aside to make time for accusations and shady remarks aimed at discrediting opponents. From foreign policy to college debt, we have heard almost nothing specific from Trump’s campaign, where at least Clinton’s recently released calculator gives us a glimpse into her goals regarding student loan forgiveness.

The electorate, breathlessly watching and waiting for the reveal of the presidential nature of our candidates, is left blue-faced and disappointed in the wake of a never-ending slew of schoolyard bully tactics. As the debates draw near, we can only hope the candidates will focus their message on something more concrete than petty jabs. Then, finally, we will have reason to vote for a candidate we like, not against one we hate.

Bonfiglio is a journalism junior from Oak Creek, Colorodo. Follow her on Twitter @NahilaBonfiglio.