Where is the line in the sand that makes everyone stand up and agree that things have gone too far? That line that lets us know when a campaign has gone beyond nasty to dangerous, past negative to incendiary, past “this is the way politics is” to “things have gotten horribly, horribly out of control.”

This week the presidential campaign took an ugly, nasty turn beginning with John McCain’s attack ads painting Barack Obama as dangerous and too different to be trusted, followed by Sarah Palin’s remarks touting  Obama as a terrorist and using words like  “fearful” and “afraid” when describing the Democratic candidate and accusing him of “palling around with terrorists,”  to Tuesday night’s spectacle of McCain pointing in the direction of Obama, when contrasting how he and Obama voted on an energy bill that came up in Congress, and saying, “You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one.”

Where is the line in the sand? When is enough enough? When does a campaign come up with one despicable tactic too many, one smear too many, one distortion too many? One thrown stone too many.

Negative campaigning is one thing.

Othering crosses a line.  Especially when it arouses loathing and hatred in one’s audience. Othering is one of those clumsy terms academics came up with to describe the strategy of accentuating differences between people, stigmatizing and denigrating the “other.” It divides the world up between “us” and “them.” Othering Obama  reinforces the notion of him as unAmerican, less than human, or, worst, an enemy that needs to be gotten rid of.

From the Washington Post:

Worse, Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”
    The reception had been better in Clearwater, where Palin, speaking to a sea of “Palin Power” and “Sarahcuda” T-shirts, tried to link Obama to the 1960s Weather Underground. “One of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” she said. (“Boooo!” said the crowd.) “And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,’ ” she continued. (“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.)

  “Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.

Making one’s opponent out to be not just a political opponent, but an enemy of the state and scapegoat for all that’s dangerous and terrifying about the world crosses over into something akin to evil. Painting Barack Obama as arrogant and a foreigner, a Muslim, and not a Christian as he alleges, someone who pals around with terrorists, and married to a woman who hates America, can not be tolerated. It’s race-baiting, fear-mongering, and xenophobia at its worst.

Where have we come as a nation that such tactics are tolerated? Someone yells out “Kill Him” at a rally and the speaker who claims to be a Christian doesn’t bother to stop and morally condemn such sentiments. It’s one thing for a campaign to use smear tactics to take votes away from the opponent, but stirring up hate and cries for murder is going over the line. No matter how pretty the face saying it, “he is not like us” is the sort of comment that has the potential to bring out the worst in people and catapult into some of the most despicable crimes against humanity.

Enough with “this is the way politics is.” Things have gotten dangerously out of control.

I say, Enough is Enough.

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