With Donald Trump slipping in the polls and a landslide -- or at least considerable -- victory for Hillary Clinton looking more likely, Time's Cody Cain takes Republicans to task for employing scorched-earth tactics that have backfired.
Republicans, Cain argues, settled on a "deplorable strategy" to demonize their political opponents, attacking President Barack Obama "in the most vile of terms," and abandoning "any and all vestiges of dignity, decorum and respect."
The "utterly astounding" Republican tactics extend to Clinton, Cain writes, as they attack her "as though she were an incarnation of a fire-breathing Lucifer."
It's that kind of nasty politics, he argues, that has led to significantly eroded trust in government. In Cain's view, the best thing that can happen is a sound Republican defeat, leading to a Democratic takeover of the presidency, House and Senate, which he believes would teach Republicans a lesson and force them to abandon their acrimonious brand of politics. Clinton defeating Trump in a landslide, according to Cain, would "heal the nation."
Cain's not wrong about U.S. politics becoming more absurd than they've been in recent memory, which is quite the feat when considering how broken the system has been for years. He's also not wrong about Republicans sinking to new depths.
But blaming Republicans without admitting the Democrats' role in turning American politics into the WWE is like blaming one baseball team for a brawl that empties both benches. And cheering for one-party rule in the U.S. is chasing an ideologues' dream, not a salve that will heal the country of its devolving political discourse. No one is going to be well-served by one party steamrolling the other without any checks on power.
The tactics of extreme partisanship percolated during the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton presidencies, but it wasn't until George W. Bush's presidency that things got really, really ugly.
That was the first time ideological leaders worked en masse to prove Godwin's Law, which says that the longer an argument spools out, the greater the chances that someone will compare another person to Hitler and the Nazis.
Sure enough, with the invasion of Iraq the first Hitler comparisons broke a seal like a storm breaking a levee, and soon comparing Bush the Younger to the Nazi fuhrer became almost commonplace. And so an American president -- a president who clearly made massive mistakes -- was regularly compared to probably the worst human being in recorded history.
Conservatives picked up the slack after Bush left office and President Barack Obama moved into the White House. People rushed out to snatch up guns and ammunition, preparing for the apocalypse like "Walking Dead" literalists. Others held on to the fiction that Obama was a Muslim sleeper agent who wasn't born in the U.S. and was sent to destroy the country. And, of course, people compared the president to Hitler.
It's now 2016 and the new Hitler is Donald Trump. Trump has diarrhea of the mouth, he has few consistent policy positions, and he's divided the country with his rhetoric about Mexicans, Muslims and his political opponents.
But again, Trump doesn't exist in a vacuum. Trump and Clinton have spent the majority of August arguing over who's the bigger racist. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of Clinton's loudest surrogates, gives Trump a run for his money when it comes to flinging ad hominems.
But is Trump comparable to Adolph Hitler? Is George W. Bush? Is Barack Obama? Why do we have this pathological need to compare American politicians to a man who presided over the deaths of millions? How is it helpful to compare U.S. politicians, no matter how bad, to a man who had millions killed in gas chambers and ovens?
How does it help the memory of Holocaust victims? If half the people casually making Nazi accusations spent time in Auschwitz, looking at the piles of millions of eyeglasses and shoes taken from victims, running their hands over the stairs worn smooth by the souls extinguished there, would they still be so quick to invoke that kind of evil to demonize political opponents?
Both sides share the blame for this, which is a major reason why so many voters are weary of the binary, two-party system that has given them a choice between two spectacularly unpopular candidates in 2016.
As for the argument that it's a good idea to have the Democrats controlling the executive branch, legislature and -- eventually -- the judiciary, even Obama doesn't want to see his own party rule with absolute power.
In a June appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," the president said he hopes the Republican party rebounds after the 2016 election.
One party self-destructing while the other goes unchecked "is not actually good for the country as a whole," Obama said. "It’s not something Democrats should wish for.”