Reverend Franklin Graham – the outspoken, fiery son of legendary preacher Bill Graham – has issued a scornful warning to the group of candidates running for president. In a Facebook post Monday, Graham pleaded with candidates on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the ticket to steer clear of the mean-spirited attacks forcing our political process “to a new low.”
“The election process,” wrote Graham, “should be about putting forth your ideas for a better America and for the future of all Americans.”
Graham declined to name names, but the bulk of his rant seemed aimed at Donald Trump and the firestorm surrounding his candidacy. “As you know, some intend to stir up conflict,” he wrote. “And if they can get you to fight, it helps their ratings more than it helps you.”
He called on all candidates to “take the high road” and leave the squabbling behind. “If civility and honesty are not brought back into the picture, I think we will eventually destroy not only each other, but our nation.”
Graham certainly has a point, even if it isn’t a particularly unique one. Politics was a dirty business long before any of us were alive, and it will continue to be one long after we’ve gone on to our eternal rewards. Critics have been calling for civility since the dawn of written history, but this beast is beyond taming. In a perfect world, maybe we could have the kind of clean, positive campaign season Graham envisions. But as he should know, this world is far from perfect.
Unfortunately, “civility and honesty” do not always make the best bedfellows. Sometimes, if you want to point out the truth you have to get your hands dirty. Would it be nice if our current crop of politicians knew how to do that with a modicum of decorum? Sure. But we’re all adults here. We can take a little bit of salty back-and-forth if it’s in service of a greater good. Donald Trump may be no one’s idea of a golden candidate, but he’s serving an important role in this election. Even if he never gets within shouting distance of the nomination, he has given conservatives a national voice for the first time in a long while.
The truth is that there’s a lot of anger among registered Republicans. We feel betrayed and abandoned by the national party. We have watched the Obama machine trample Republican opposition without breaking a sweat. Conservatives weren’t waiting for Trump, but we damn sure weren’t happy about Jeb Bush’s seemingly inevitable path to the presidency. When Trump came along – flawed, ridiculous, and loud as he might be – the excitement was palpable.
It would be nice if Republicans could focus their attacks on Hillary and Obama rather than each other, but this election is about more than the presidency. It’s also about designing the future of the GOP. If that means enduring some off-color language and some ill-advised personal attacks, then that’s what it means.