I admit it. I’m a diehard liberal Democrat and a political junkie who sat glued to my television night after night watching the Republican and Democratic conventions. Of course, that also meant watching the accompanying political ads during the commercial breaks.
When it comes to political ads, especially the negative ones, I’m not much of a fan. I usually find myself screaming at the television: “Can’t you just say what you stand for, instead of attacking the other guy?”
I have to say, though, that there is one negative ad out that I think speaks to why this presidential election really matters. It doesn’t have the usual deep, dark authoritative voice warning us of the dangers of electing a candidate’s political opponent. Instead, this ad, put out by the Clinton campaign, shows children watching television while Donald Trump riffs. He makes fun of a journalist with a disability, disparages a female reporter, and comments that he could shoot someone in plain view and wouldn’t lose any votes.
To me, Trump’s words remind us that this election is about so much more than disagreements over policy or political party. It’s about what kinds of messages we communicate to our children about who we are and aspire to be. If we want our children to grow up to be caring, respectful, and ethical human beings—can we really consider electing someone to be Commander-in-Chief who spews such vitriol?
Or, for that matter, someone who targets whole groups of immigrants and sends the message that “you’re not welcome here”? We are a nation of immigrants. Our diversity is our strength, and inclusiveness is one of our fundamental values. This is one of the reasons why I found the appearance of Khizr Khan, a Muslim father whose son died in Afghanistan protecting his fellow soldiers, so deeply moving. He pointed out that if Trump had his way, his family would never have been allowed in the country. The image of this father pulling a copy of the U.S. Constitution out of his breast pocket and offering to loan it to Trump is one that still brings tears to my eyes.
All presidential elections matter, but I can’t help but feel that this one matters more than most. It goes to the heart of who we are as a people, and what we stand for as role models for our beloved children.
They’re watching us.