Editorial: Keep violence out of campaign

The Detroit News

The violence that greeted Donald Trump rallies in California over the past week is not cool. Nor is it acceptable. Americans have managed for the most part to conduct their elections civilly and safely, and nothing about this election cycle excuses changing that.

Opponents of the Republican front-runner blocked traffic in Costa Mesa, berating Trump supporters and attacking their vehicles. At the state GOP convention in Burlington, protesters stormed the barricades set up in front of a hotel and attempted to get inside.

Trump could not drive into the convention venue, instead having to get out of his car, climb over a highway barrier and walk to the hotel.

It was a continuation of the confrontations that marked Trump rallies during the New York primary campaign last month, and have broken out elsewhere.

Trump’s opponents, including Democrat Hillary Clinton in Detroit this weekend, blame him for the violence, claiming his incendiary comments on the campaign trail incite intense emotions.

That’s certainly true. Trump has said terrible things about Mexicans, Muslims and women. It has proven pointless to urge him to de-escalate his rhetoric.

But that still is not an excuse for those who find him appalling to react with violence, or to attempt to stop his supporters from exercising their right to participate without intimidation in the political process.

Emotions are bound to run strong over the next seven months until Election Day. Both Trump and Clinton evoke visceral reactions from their opponents.

And it has been a long time since America has seen anyone on the campaign trail as willing to intentionally inflame as is Trump. His remarks seem designed to provoke. And his supporters have often reacted violently to protesters at Trump rallies — sometimes at the urging of the candidate himself.

If the confrontations spread, and Trump backers treat Clinton in kind, this will be a miserable election season, and one that is very damaging to political discourse in this country.

Americans don’t generally mix politics and violence. Not even in the aftermath of the contested 2000 presidential election did we allow frustration and anger to turn into violent outbursts. Spirited debate and vocal protests are very much acceptable parts of political speech. But when things turn physical, a line must be drawn.

We must let each other speak, even when we are offended by what we’re hearing. The place to respond is at the ballot box.

Those who vehemently detest Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton should express themselves by working through the system to defeat them. Make donations. Register voters. Put up yard signs. And vote.

But trying to shut down political rallies and attack those attending them is not who we are as a people. And we shouldn’t let Donald Trump or any other candidate cause us to become that.