The U.S. was never close to perfect, but nor has it been this close to breaking.

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Art by Echo Valley Metalworks

When I was a kid, pro wrestler and American hero Sergeant Slaughter turned heel (bad guy) on then-WWF (presently WWE) television by pledging his loyalty to Saddam Hussein and aligning with the evil General Adnan Al-Kaissie. To add insult to injury, the former G.I. Joe defeated The Ultimate Warrior for the heavyweight title, but then — thankfully — lost it to a motivated Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VII.

Thing is, a month later Slaughter returned. He apologized to all, and pleaded to anyone who would listen: “I want my country back!”

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We forgave him, but could never forget his betrayal. Ol’ Sarge was never quite the same.

In the real world, our country has been betrayed by those who lead it.

The Presidency of the United States to many children (and parents) has long represented something equally sacred. “Work hard and maybe one day you too will become President,” parents would say to their kids. Sure, Richard Nixon resigned before he was impeached, and Bill Clinton forever proved the old Jedi trick that he “didn’t have sex with that woman” from a certain point of view, but let’s face it. Our presidents were largely looked upon as role models, regardless of their human foibles.

Today, Donald Trump may be a hero to some, but a role model?

Really? I long ago tired of the lies, and the disinformation, of the name-calling and backstabbing, the racist dogwhistles to remain cool with a certain section of his base, the “fake news media” and the rest.

I lived in New York for many years when Trump was front-page fodder, more for his affairs and bankruptcies than anything else back then, but even still it was clear the guy was no paragon of morality.

Sadly, in hindsight, I was a fan of “The Apprentice.” Once upon a time, I tried to be a bit more balanced in my commentary:

But I could not quite get there. And today, Trump’s recent politicizing of our latest global calamity, the coronavirus, has been equally egregious.

And, as for those on my side of the fence?

We need to be careful. We’ve been all too frequently of late showing that we’ve become no better.

Following the contentious 2020 Las Vegas and South Carolina Democratic presidential debates, where the next potential President could have been an equally sharp-tongued leader (Elizabeth Warren, holding nothing back to the point of ugliness which, I venture to say — based on online and in-person reactions — has in part hurt her candidacy), or yet another liar whose team conveniently edited videos to make himself look good (Michael Bloomberg, who reedited and released a portion of the Vegas Debate now showing the stunned reactions of his opponents when discussing how many jobs he’s created), upon consideration of the negativity of it all I shook my head until my neck hurt.

And we complain about the other side’s lack of decency?

Bernie bots, outspoken Bernie Sanders supporters who publicly claim they will accept nothing less than a Bernie-led revolution, have repeatedly posted online that they will either vote for Trump or sit out the election entirely if their candidate loses.

Tulsi Gabbard, a non-entity in this race who I still believe is somewhat more complex than her generally horrific press, lost me entirely when she refused to cast a vote for Trump’s impeachment.

Biden, if he wins the nod, needs to be careful and keep his temper. Trump can easily draw others into his dark web. A few knocks against Hunter, or Biden’s late son Beau — neither of which is beneath him — and Biden could easily be knocked off his game.

Mayor Pete is out for 2020, as is Amy Kobuchar, so I’ll continue to address only those remaining at the time of this writing.

Donald Trump has made acceptable a level of ugliness in our social discourse that years ago would have been anathema for the leader of the free world. I had again tried being more balanced about my leanings a few weeks ago, while identifying what I believe to be a largely unrecognized issue, and based on bipartisan response to this article I apparently had largely succeeded:

I have voted Democrat all but three times in my life. I will do so again in November, regardless of the ultimate candidate.

Stressed for clarity’s sake.

On February 14, 2019, the 9th Democratic debate, emanating from Las Vegas, further accentuated what had by now become acceptable in such political forums: an overt disrespect that pervaded the scene and led the GOP, predictably and rightfully, to accuse their opposition of being hypocrites.

If my side is to be the party of unity and — let’s say it — civility — then we have drastically failed to this point.

As a former school teacher, if I was grading the performance of that particular group of debaters in the aforementioned debates as a collective, they would have received an “F.”

The complete transcript of the Las Vegas Democratic debate can be found here:

Elizabeth Warren was largely considered the winner of this one in post-show polling, and make no mistake, her effort was indeed a show. As were the performances of the rest.

Somewhere, though, between this debate and its followup, her fortunes began to change. The ‘Pocahontas” controversy did not seem to hurt her; I’m inclined to believe the damage was self-inflicted.

If the early days of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign as everyone’s best friend were a bit pandering, she scored major points by consistently bringing to the table platforms and solutions on which she would be working.

As to the debates, to be clear, Warren absolutely should expose Bloomberg and anyone else who has been accused of questionable practices in a professional environment. Said candidate must answer to such charges.

Her major issue has become one of image, in my opinion. Warren was once considered a frontrunner as a highly-experienced, concerned contender who introduced solutions to real world problems. Though those solutions were also sometimes controversial, such as her plan to pay for Medicare for All, she was consistent in her messaging.

Of late, however, she has been drawn into the pervasive political ugliness of the day, spending considerably more time cutting down her opponents, primarily Bloomberg, than discussing her platforms. Bloomberg, the late-comer to this contest, has been near the bottom of every poll since he announced his candidacy.

His Super Tuesday results were expectedly negligible, winning only American Somoa.

So why the bother? Why the loss of focus on what brought this most talented and knowledgable of candidates to the party?

Her polling now is not much higher than the billionaire she’s excoriated.

Speaking of, after saturating the airwaves with unprecedented levels of advertising for nearly three months, Michael Bloomberg was on the defensive from the opening gun in his first debate. Mr. Sanders hit him for his support of stop-and-frisk police tactics. Ms. Warren eviscerated him as a sexist (“a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians”) who had “muzzled” women with nondisclosure agreements.

Does anyone remember the issues in this election?

The South Carolina debate was not much better.

Among the pearls of wisdom in this one:

Bloomberg to Sanders: “Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that’s why Russia is helping you get elected, so you can lose to him.”

Warren to Bloomberg: “At least I didn’t have a boss who said to me, ‘kill it,’ the way that Mayor Bloomberg is alleged to have said to one of his pregnant employees.”

It went on from there, leading to this article from Politico:

As Amy Klobuchar rightfully warned: “If we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we’re going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart.”

Damn right.

Politics has always been an ugly affair — primarily behind closed doors. For one, I am under no illusions to the contrary. But what was once private has become public, and the world is certainly no better off for that contribution to our global culture.

With apologies to Sergeant Slaughter, I’m sick and tired of politics as usual as just another episode of WWE wrestling.

How I long for my childhood idealism.

As I mentioned at the outset, I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!

Thank you for reading.


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Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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