One of the memorable scenes in the classic 1939 movie “Gone With the Wind” depicts Rhett Butler finally giving up on his tumultuous marriage to Scarlett O’Hara.
“I’m going back to Charleston, back where I belong,” declared Rhett. “I want peace. I want to see if somewhere there isn’t something left in life of charm and grace.”
Scarlett, by then realizing that she really doesn’t want to lose Rhett, asks “if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do.”
Rhett responds: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
We’re left to our imaginations whether Rhett found peace, charm and grace in Charleston. There may not have been a lot of it anywhere in the South in the years right after the Civil War. And there’s not much of it in the national political world these days. Maybe there never was.
Political campaigns always have been heated. Abraham Lincoln was probably vilified more by his political opponents than Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. National divisiveness in Lincoln’s day sparked a Civil War. We can be thankful we aren’t there yet.
The current lack of decorum in the nation’s political discourse was on full display in last week’s so-called presidential debate. It was more of a shouting match than any kind of enlightened discussion of issues.
There wasn’t a clear winner, and some claim both candidates, who interrupted each other and moderator Chris Wallace, were losers. My guess is that Trump — despite his declaring victory — was the biggest loser, and post debate polls, taken after the debate but before the president was reported as having caught the coronavirus, reflect as much.
I doubt Trump lost any of his hard core base of supporters, but neither did Joe Biden. I suspect more undecided voters were put off by Trump’s boorish behavior than was the case with Biden who did get into the interruptions and name calling but not as much as the president.
Trump’s problem with some people who actually like his court nominees and some of his other actions is they can’t stand his lack of character. I confess. That includes me.
If you’re wanting charm and grace these days, better take a cue from Rhett Butler and try Charleston. Don’t look to the White House. Don’t look to the White House either for examples of following the rules that apply to the rest of us.
Members of Trump’s family, attending the debate in Cleveland, Ohio, removed their masks in defiance of a rule requiring the audience to keep them on. Shunning masks and social distancing appears to be something of a political statement by Trump and many of his supporters who mock Biden and Democrats for being overly cautious during the pandemic..
Right now, the Trump strategy may not be working out so well. We’ll see.
It’s uncertain how the rest of the campaign will play out, especially in light of the president’s current illness. The next debate, scheduled for Oct. 15, may have to be postponed or cancelled, depending on Trump’s health. My guess is he’ll make it if he can.
At any rate, the commission that oversees presidential debates says it will change the format to ensure the remaining two encounters between Trump and Biden are more orderly. One new measure could be to cut the microphones if the candidates try to interrupt each other,
Maybe, they should put the candidates in separate rooms, if not separate cities. Let the questions be asked, the statements made, without interruption from the opposition.