This is how Donald Trump has poisoned politics.
Maybe you thought that couldn’t be done—but every day we see that just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the deepening muck sucks all of them under. Even the best of them.
Yesterday Paul Filson stepped down from his position as executive director of the SEIU Connecticut State Council. Filson was the person who authorized the digital ad that linked Dr. William Petit to Donald Trump’s attack on women. To call the act merely reprehensible is to downplay its reckless stupidity. The council realized it and allowed or encouraged Mr. Filson to step down. He did so.
I don’t know Paul Filson. He may be a fine person and he may be embarrassed and horrified at what he signed off on a few days ago. He could not possibly be unaware of the Cheshire home invasion and the murders of Dr. Petit’s wife and two daughters, but if somehow he was, than his act becomes less heinous and more indicative of the present political climate. If I had just arrived here from another planet, did not know Dr. Petit or his opponent Betty Boukus, but knew of Trump and his boasting about assaulting women, I would call any Republican who did not formally disavow Donald Trump complicit. It’s easy—just plug in a name.
Actually if you look at the apology from SEIU or from Labor United of Connecticut which paid for the ad, nobody seemed to have any idea what was going on, what was being said, what was being implied, or who was being insulted. It turns out the ad was generic and the addition of Dr. Petit’s name was happenstance. Nevertheless, stupidity is still stupidity.
In a way I feel worse for Mrs. Boukus. People who know Betty know her for the work she has done for her constituents and for the state in general these past two decades. Her list of accomplishments speaks for itself. For her to be associated with this ad—and to feel obliged to speak out against it—was ludicrous. But in this Trump-poisoned environment, she had to.
I’ve had some contact with both candidates over the years—Betty has been an education advocate and always supported teachers and students; and Bill’s work on the publication of his yearbook in 1974 allowed the staff to actually pay for it. I was the advisor—I know. Believe me, this is not name-dropping: any resident in the area will vouch for their authenticity in much greater detail.
But beyond my meager anecdotes, I don’t think you would meet two more respected and dedicated people either in politics or any other field than Mrs. Boukus and Dr. Petit. Each running against the other is an unenviable task; nevertheless, they have put forth positions on issues, and the voters must pay attention and decide. It’s actual politics—that’s why it’s so regrettable for them to have been caught up in a mud-slinging battle not of their own doing. It was—to use one of the few words Trump comprehends enough to bandy about—sad.
But at least by now we all understand that the deepening muck of the Trump campaign renders all civility superfluous—that unless and until all voters from both parties pull free from his hateful rhetoric, even the best boats may be sucked under.