No doubt about it, the 2016 presidential election has been one of the most eccentric and unpredictable elections ever. From the primaries to the nominating conventions and beyond, there's been a lot of bizarre moments in this year's election. We've had presidential candidates talk penis size in televised debates, eat bacon cooked on AR-15s, and give out their rival's phone number at campaign rallies. Yet along with the strange moments have come the bitter, the ugly, the unhinged, the dare I say even the dangerous moments. Because let's be clear, there have in fact been more than a few dangerous moments in the 2016 presidential election.
What makes an election dangerous? It isn't when the candidate of your preference slips behind in the polls. It isn't when public support for legislation you consider necessary wanes. It isn't even when disenfranchised voters attempt to organize a fart-in at a political party's nominating convention. Those are certainly things to feel anxious about, but hardly a danger to democratic politics.
Rather, an election begins to become dangerous when we veer away from national unity and upholding the principles of both democracy and our country's founding solely on the cryptic and vague assertion that "there's something going on." When an election includes attacks on our institutions and on our citizens, however, it becomes dangerous. When it includes attempts to destabilize democracy and incite violence against opponents, dissenters, and minorities, it's dangerous.
Here are nine times this election season has been seriously hazardous for America's health:
1. When Violent Rhetoric Overrode Discussions Of Policy To Fuel Fear
National security is often a topic brought up during elections, but this year we've seen outright calls for killing enter election rhetoric in a way not seen in previous decades. Take the Dec. 15 Republican primary debate for example, where the word "kill" was said a total of 53 times and candidates attempted to win over voters with promises to unleash deadly violence. "We will hunt down and kill the terrorists," Ted Cruz said. At one point Donald Trump advocated for killing the families of domestic and international terrorists.
2. When Mexican Heritage Meant A Person Could Be Openly Targeted, Berated, Or Vilified
This election has been a rough one for Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, and anyone with a remotely Hispanic sounding name thanks to the bigoted rhetoric Trump uttered when announcing his presidential campaign in June 2015. "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," Trump said. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems to us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."
3. When Being Muslim Meant Freedom Of Religion Didn't Apply To You
While the issue of religious freedom had already pushed itself into the national political sphere before Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" as part of his presidential campaign, his attacks on Muslims have only increased. He advocated establishing a national registry to track Muslims. At a September town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire, he actually responded, in all seriousness, to a question on when can we get rid of Muslims? "We're going to be looking at that and many other things," Trump said. This election appears to have put the country in jeopardy of heading backward toward a dangerous era of racism and hatred.
4. When A Candidate Questioned The Legitimacy Of America's National Elections
Trump's recent warnings the election could be "stolen from us" aren't exactly a new tactic for the Republican nominee. Trump questioned the legitimacy of the primaries whenever he performed poorly at the polls, and we're likely to see him trot out accusations the election is rigged with increased frequency as Election Day draws near. But this is a dangerous claim, as it could weaken America's international standing by implying the U.S. political system stands on par with that of dictatorships. Furthermore, it risks national unity by encouraging a rejection of peaceful change and delegitimizing the next president in the eyes of Trump supporters. However, Trump isn't the only presidential candidate to claim things were rigged.
Former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also railed against a rigged system, though he was specifically criticizing the Democratic Party's superdelegate system and not implying national voter fraud.
5. When Objectifying & Degrading Women Was Dismissed As Acceptable Talk
They might not be able to participate in elections just yet, but America's youth is watching and they're impacted by what they're seeing. There's a lot about this year's election that could easily be classified as NSFW, but perhaps no NSFW moment was as dangerous as when Trump's campaign attempted to frame his boasting of being able to do anything to women (including "grab 'em by the pussy") as a totally normal conversation for guys to have when away from women's ears. This is not acceptable behavior and we should be allowing young girls and boys to receive messages that imply it is.
6. When Lou Dobbs Made The Address & Phone Number Of A Trump Accuser Public
Fox Business Network anchor Lou Dobbs tweeted Jessica Leeds' address and phone number Thursday, jeopardizing the safety of a woman who has accused Trump of groping her. Dobbs later deleted the retweet which contained a link to Leeds' personal information and reportedly tweeted "My Retweet, My Mistake, My Apology to Jessica Leeds," though that tweet has also since been deleted.
7. When Conspiracy Theories Pushed Into The Mainstream
Remember when Trump called President Barack Obama "the founder of ISIS?" Remember when Clinton claimed the "vast, right-wing conspiracy" out to get her was now "even better funded?" Remember when Cruz's father was implicated as an accessory in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy?
Conspiracy theories aren't new. They've always been present in politics, though largely in the dark recesses of the internet. The 2016 election, however, seems to have enabled conspiracy theories to wiggle their way into the mainstream, opening the door to mass hysteria based on factually inaccurate or meritless claims.
8. When One Candidate Called For His Opponent To Be Imprisoned
During the second presidential debate, Trump sounded a little bit more like an authoritarian dictator than a U.S. presidential candidate when he threatened to imprison his political opponent. "If I win," Trump told Clinton, "I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. People have been, their lives have been destroyed for doing one fifth of what you have done. And it's a disgrace."
When Clinton responded that, "it's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country," Trump replied, "because you'd be in jail," leaving no ambiguity in just exactly what he'd do to her if he had the power. Yet this is not how democracies or the U.S. presidency works.
9. When One Trump Supporter Told Pence She Was "Ready For A Revolution" If Clinton Won
"I'll tell you just for me, and I don't want this to happen, but for me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I'm ready for a revolution because we can't have her in," one woman told Trump's running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during an Oct. 11 rally in Newton, Iowa. Even Pence recognized the danger of threatening to take action if the candidate you favor doesn't emerge from the election victorious. "Yeah, don't say that," Pence said.
This incident is especially troubling given that Trump ally and adviser Roger Stone told Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos "it will be a bloodbath" if "widespread voter fraud" enables Democrats to take the election. For the record, studies have found no evidence of the widespread voter fraud Trump's campaign has alluded to.
Even with not much time left before Election Day, the 2016 election isn't quite over. Given how beyond prediction it has been up till now, I wouldn't be surprised to find a few more dangerous moments lurking between now and Nov. 8. And yet, perhaps, the biggest danger of this year's election is the seemingly irrevocable divide it's created among Americans.