Republican focus on infidelity, nudity and insults shows America in decline

Easter 2016 is one for the history books, but only if they’re rated "R." The front-runners of a political party with increasingly tenuous claims as guardians of Christian virtues are locked in a tawdry, decidedly un-Christian scandal over infidelity, nudity and conduct unbecoming a president or first lady.

The Republicans’ main act in this ongoing circus is so scandalous that parents can’t even allow their young to watch live coverage of certain presidential campaigns for fear profanity might erupt or a vicious slur might be made about someone’s race or religion. Such rhetoric invites stern judgment of just what Christian scruples are anymore.

Family newspapers operating under societal standards of decency gleefully ignored by rampant social media have printed the broad outlines of all this. Last week, a Republican super political action committee dedicated to defeating Republican front-runner, real estate magnate and reality TV star Donald Trump borrowed a photo highlighted by renegade Democratic sites and gave it even wider dissemination.

The photo showed Trump’s third wife naked, from her days as a fashion model, and offered this advice: "Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady. Or you could vote for Ted Cruz on Tuesday." This photo was aimed at Republicans in Utah, a state whose Mormon population was outraged in 2011 when Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, in backing Rick Perry for president, claimed that Mormons (including GOP candidate Mitt Romney) were cultists.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican trying to catch up with Trump’s delegate count and a Bible-thumping candidate whose association with facts is equally tenuous, denies involvement with the photo. And if you truly believe super PACs do not coordinate their activities with individual candidates, as the law prescribes, that’s a legitimate defense.

Then a story surfaced from the gossip rag The National Enquirer claiming Cruz conducted extramarital affairs with five women, further escalating the GOP fireworks. Between all this, Trump forces tweeted a highly unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz, prompting her husband to brand Trump a "sniveling coward" — talk that Cruz has in the past reserved only for fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

As McLennan Community College government professor Andria Ramon reminds us, this isn’t the first time presidential politics has plummeted to these depths. For instance, the presidential election of 1828 saw Andrew Jackson’s enemies publicize embarrassing irregularities involving his marriage and the fact he and his beloved Rachel married before her divorce from another man was final. Jackson blamed his enemies for her death shortly after the election.

But the election of 2016 — particularly the depths to which the Republican front-runners and their advocates have sunk — astonishes, all bolstered by social media, YouTube videos and 24/7 news coverage. When one reflects on the moral decay some say afflicts our nation, one need only look at those who would be our leaders. No wonder Democrats — who once had good reason to fear losing the White House — now contemplate winning the White House and Senate this fall.

This spring the triumphant message of the Easter holiday is marginalized by the antics and rhetoric of candidates who are leading this nation into further decline. Worse, too many Americans have signaled that this is entirely acceptable behavior, that anything goes, no matter who is hurt or slandered — hardly representative of genuinely Christian people who supposedly seek to put their very best forward as leaders. One verse comes to our mind: Mark 8:36 — "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

— Waco Tribune-Herald,

Waco, Texas