The Rutland Herald (Vt.), Sept. 12:

“Political correctness” is a term used as a shield to protect language that others find to be offensive. But what does it mean to violate the standards of political correctness?

There are many examples. When Donald Trump denounces Mexican immigrants, accusing them of being criminals and rapists, he is not being politically correct. When he calls women slobs or rates them on a 1-to-10 scale, he is not being politically correct. When Sarah Palin likens black activists to dogs, she is far beyond the bounds of the correct.

These comments and others like them inevitably provoke cries of racism or sexism. They should. In fact, the current election campaign counts as one of the most overtly racist and sexist in many years, thanks mainly to Trump, who glories in violating standards of correctness. He tries to get away with it by turning the criticism back on itself, claiming his critics are forcing him toward their standards of political correctness.

Well, yes. Racism should be denounced. The day it is not denounced is the day when America has slid into a deep slumber of apathy and cynicism. Voters should demand of their candidates that they show respect toward fellow candidates and toward voters. And yet Trump has fashioned his whole persona around his bullying image and his willingness to berate and denounce others as “stupid” or worse. It is only a matter of time before someone calls Trump on his belligerence and voters ask themselves whether a leader so consumed by his own ego can possibly serve the people.

There is a deep well of hatred in our country, and there always has been. It tends to be associated with racism, and it doesn’t go away. In the early 20th century, it was socially permissible to hang black people from trees and for the town to turn out as if to a picnic. In the mid-20th century, it was permissible to murder civil rights workers, black and white.

Eventually, we crawled out of that swamp, and these things were not permissible, and the attitudes that gave rise to murder and other forms of terrorism were seen broadly as racist. But those attitudes did not go away. The pool of hatred might have shrunk, but it is still there.

Over the decades, resentment has percolated among the haters about society’s implicit condemnation of their views. Meanwhile, they have found validation in the coded language of radio and TV personalities and in clever politicians who speak the language of Jim Crow without giving themselves away. Out at the margins, there have been divisive figures – Palin is an example – giving voice to those percolating resentments, shielding themselves with charges of “political correctness,” but gradually moving the margin toward the middle. Now Trump seeks to legitimize racism and sexism that is more overt than any other candidate could possibly get away with.

Those who have been yearning for someone to give voice to their nasty prejudices, against Latinos or against women, will be gratified by the ascendancy of Trump, but ultimately, the great mass of American voters will be repelled. The presidency is a reality show that takes place in the real world. Over time a steady diet of hostility and ego will be hard for most Americans to take.

Some of the Republican candidates may be looking for their Joseph Welch moment. Welch was a lawyer representing the U.S. Army in 1954 in hearings called by Sen. Joseph McCarthy to look into McCarthy’s specious charges of a communist conspiracy. Finally pushed too far, Welch responded to McCarthy by saying, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness … Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

These lines ruined McCarthy’s career. The American people’s sense of decency is still there, looking for a voice.

The Republican of Springfield (Mass.), Sept. 17:

To be successful, a presidential candidate must play the long game. It’s a marathon, the cliche has it, not a sprint.

The statement, of course, applies to the campaign, but it also could refer to Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate.

It was far too long. It was too often shabbily run, with efforts to get the candidates to engage with one another having perhaps made more sense on the drawing board than it did in practice. What the move produced was a decent amount of heat, but very little light.

To call what took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library a “debate” is to stretch the definition of the word beyond all real meaning. Still, a few things did stand out.

Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett- Packard CEO, showed why she shouldn’t have been relegated to the “kids table” debate last time around – and why she belonged in Wednesday’s prime time event. She was substantive and knowledgeable throughout the threehour telecast.

Others, not so much. Billionaire reality TV star Donald Trump again showed his superficial stripes at his too-frequent turns, but he was never more ridiculous than when asserting – all evidence to the contrary – that there’s some link between vaccines and autism. Though he is plainly and demonstrably wrong, the two doctors on stage – retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul – sadly missed a golden opportunity to denounce his dangerous demagoguery.

Throughout the evening, others had their moments that shone through the clutter. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was once again on top of his game, often seeming like the smartest and most wellprepared kid in class. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, too, stepped up during some responses. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who appeared for much of the evening to be phoning in his performance, eventually hit his stride.

It’s important to remember that one of the 11 who were assembled at the Reagan library in Simi Valley, California, could be elected president in 14 months. The tenor of Wednesday’s gussied-up street fight, at times annoying and at turns entertaining, must not obscure that fact.

In the months ahead, as the marathon continues and the field begins mercifully to narrow, one can only hope that there’ll be more substance and less foolishness.