Saturday, July 30, 2016

Two Party Conventions Showcase America's Stark Political Polarization

This is good.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Two conventions, one vast gulf: Republicans and Democrats appear to be speaking to different countries":
One night this week, the Democratic convention featured eight black women whose children had died in shootings or at the hands of police. A week earlier, Republicans repeatedly paid tribute to law enforcement.

In Philadelphia, the billionaire global warming activist Tom Steyer was ubiquitous. In Cleveland, Republicans put a spotlight on the plight of out-of-work miners and pledged to increase use of coal.

A speaker needing applause at a Democratic convention can always praise teachers. Republicans can reliably criticize public employee unions.

As the themes and tableaus of the parties’ conventions illustrated, a deep political gulf separates the country’s two major parties, their elected officials and their most reliable voters. And it is getting wider. Voters not only disagree on solutions to the nation’s ills, they hold starkly different views about what the problems are.

“Rarely in American history,” as Gov. Jerry Brown said here at the DNC, “have two parties diverged so profoundly.”

Both presidential nominees now face the question of whether either can bridge that divide — or whether they even want to try. Each entered the convention weeks with  a strategic choice: Does the path toward victory involve reinforcing party loyalty in hopes of driving more on your side to vote? Or does winning require reaching across the tribal lines of American politics?

In Cleveland, Donald Trump placed a clear bet on the former path. Nearly every element of the Republican convention played to the anxieties and frustrations of the older white conservative voters who form the core of the GOP coalition.

His campaign strategists believe they can do better than the last two GOP nominees in motivating those voters to the polls. They’re also counting on Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable image driving down turnout among Democratic-leaning groups, particularly young people and minorities, who may not back her as readily as they did President Obama.

Clinton confronted a more complicated calculus.

Her party has proved the strength of its electoral coalition — winning the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. But its voters have grown frustrated at the gridlock that has resulted from a divided political system.

Moreover, Trump’s powerful appeal to the economic unease — and the racial resentments — of blue-collar whites has accelerated the trend of such voters identifying with the GOP. To make up for potential losses among them, Democrats need to increase their vote among suburban, college-educated voters who in the past have often sided with Republicans.

“We're trying to bridge that gap, to try to make an argument that the politics of division are dangerous for our country,” Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, said at a meeting with reporters sponsored by the Wall Street Journal.

The Democratic convention, culminating in Clinton’s speech, reflected that imperative. With speakers like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and repeated descriptions of Trump as a dangerously unsteady authoritarian, they sought to make moderate, college-educated Republicans and Republican-leaning independents comfortable with the idea of crossing the line to vote for a Democrat.

Creating such inroads, however, is a tricky task...