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Opinion: Presidential candidates offering fear and vengeance

Our son in Scotland shares with us the bemused view held by many Scots of American politics. Recently 500,000 U.K. citizens petitioned Parliament to debate banning the real estate developer from the U.K. There was debate but, wisely, no action. Imagine, a presidential candidate being banned from the shores of one of our strongest allies.
If we can bring ourselves to be optimistic about the current state of our politics, we might remember Winston Churchill’s dictum: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time …” (Churchill in the House of Commons, Nov. 11, 1947).
But it is difficult to be optimistic about the state of our politics. Candidates are offering not hope but fear; not promise but threat; not compassion but vengeance; not reason but snarls. Is there no one with the courage to call “SHAME” to our would-be leaders?
A wise old Boston attorney, Joseph N. Welch, cut down the infamous demagogue of the ’50s, Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency? At long last have you left no sense of decency?” (Welch in a Senate hearing, June 9, 1954).
Biographer Ron Chernow’s statement about ambition should be our current politicians’ lodestar: “Ambition was reckless if inspired by purely selfish motives but laudable if guided by great principles.” (Chernow in “Alexander Hamilton”).
Abraham Lincoln cited “the better angels of our nature” in his first inaugural address. Are we truly losing sight of great principles? Have we truly lost our better angels?
Thomas Bechtel
Middlebury

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