Anu Roy-Chaudhury: Personal vs. political mistakes

Monday, October 31, 2016 - 6:18pm

If you have been watching the news, scrolling through your Twitter feed, sifting through your Facebook timeline or simply not living under a rock over the past few weeks, you know that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has dug himself an even deeper hole this election, and I’m not sure he’ll be able to climb out.

The leaked video of Trump degrading women a few weeks back proved the sexist nature of the Republican nominee and created a vacuum of anti-Trump rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum. In fact, GOP members began to denounce Donald Trump as the face of the party in this election, scorning the nominee’s very unpresidential actions. To that, all I can say to Republicans who backed Trump in the first place is: Are you really surprised?

This election has seen Donald Trump insult numerous demographics numerous times. The leaked video was tangible and vivid evidence of an already sound fact: Donald Trump is a sexist. Yet, even with this disgusting video circulating on the internet and being talked about on every news media outlet, the question of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email controversy still is being talked about as an equivalent offense to Trump’s actions. The danger in this is that one concerns the faults of a politician, and the other concerns the faults of a human being.

As many of us know, this has been a media-driven, policy-lacking election. Events in the candidates’ pasts have been talked about in debates more than pivotal policy issues. It has become an entertaining and provocative election, but for the wrong reasons. It’s true: The past actions of presidential nominees do hold a great amount of relevance when voters go to the polls in November. We are voting for the leader of our country, the face of our country and the person who is going to change our country. A nominee’s past speaks to their character: What they have done speaks to what they will do, so it’s rational and right to give sure weight to the past of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

However, the histories of Clinton and Trump have become too relevant in the way we are discussing them. They have become points of entertaining news cycles and political debate. The U.S. public is caught up in the intriguing “he said, she said” stories, weighing these tabloid-worthy, scandal-clad events on par with proposed policy. Both sides of the political spectrum scrutinize the opposing candidate’s past — a back-and-forth that has been going on for the past two months. Regardless, we cannot weigh the past of Hillary Clinton against that of Donald Trump, especially now with the Access Hollywood video as the icing on the cake of Donald Trump’s failed crusade to winning the presidency.

Every politician makes mistakes. If you look back through history, no president has gotten through his term perfectly unscathed. However, these same presidents have owned up to their mistakes, to their political faults and to their missteps in judgment. They have done the right thing by admitting they did the wrong thing. Hillary Clinton’s political past is tainted with both scandal and mistakes. This is true, but that doesn’t mean she is somehow even with Donald Trump, an argument we seem to be making by applying “choosing the lesser of two evils” to this election. Talk from the Conservative right uses Clinton’s political mistakes to lessen the damage of Trump’s recent and past human failings.

The email controversy still being talked about now, while a mistake on Clinton’s part, does not match the degree of Trump’s long and historic slew of insults and disregard for human beings. Trump’s grotesque and sexist remarks are ones that target human beings and human rights. A woman’s right to be respected by the men in her life, and the men in the world, is a human right — a right Trump so blatantly ignored. Any woman — of any party, race, religion, background, level of education — has been insulted by that video.

The clear difference between the two is the fact that only one has taken true responsibility for her mistakes while the other has defensively protested them, even in the face of clear evidence. In fact, last week, Donald Trump threatened to sue all women who have accused him of sexual assault.

This defensive act and pure disregard for what his own words truly meant is the difference between the human being Donald Trump is and the human being Hillary Clinton is. Clinton has admitted to the mistakes of her past. She hasn’t gone on the defensive and argued that the media, the Liberals and the world are against her. No, she has taken responsibility for her wrongdoings, admitting to her own flaws.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two flawed candidates, possibly the most flawed candidates a U.S. election has seen, but measuring their flaws against each other isn’t fair. Those political mistakes of Clinton are no match for the human faults of Trump. 

Anu Roy-Chaudhury can be reached at anuroy@umich.edu.