As the Republican and Democratic Conventions were taking place one could flip from CNN or MSNBC to FOX and realize in a minute that there is nothing that can bridge the ideological divide within the nation. Absolutely nothing. It’s troubling. There is little or no ground for dialogue or mutual understanding. Each side believes the other is living in some sort of “alternate reality.”
Trump supporters feel Hillary is not seeing reality and actual circumstances for what they are–alarming signs of the decline of America’s greatness. Hillary’s supporters believe Trump is a demagogue who paints a dark picture of both the nation and the world for his electoral gain, to instill fear and doubt in the hearts of Americans.
The contrast between both Conventions was stark–and the contrast between the narrative dominating each convention was severe. Democrats (with the advantage of staging their convention after the Republican one) presented themselves as a force of progress, with ideas and a worldview anchored in the very history and national values that characterize the United States since its inception.
They just nominated a woman as the first presidential candidate of one of the two major parties in America. (And that after having elected the first African-American president in 2008.) Democrats’ narrative points to a forward movement whereas Donald Trump’s rhetorical display looks backward to a state of affairs that population and cultural changes make it exist no more.
In this vein, NYT political reporter Maggie Haberman pointed out that Trump’s speech closing the Republican convention “speaks to an era that is gone … He has something of a preserved-in-amber view of the country.” And I couldn’t agree more. Respected political pollster John Zogby commented, along the same lines, that “the erosion of the middle class and the change of demographics are playing a major role” in Trump’s popular insurgency. What happened to America? What happened to my country? Trump backers seemed to be asking.
If something these Conventions have confirmed, beyond rhetoric, and speeches, and electoral strategy, is that politically and ideologically this nation is deeply divided. There is hatred of the political opponent and little respect for what inspires each other’s ideas. That hatred is just the most irrational and visceral manifestation of the fragmentation that explains the dynamics of this 2016 presidential election.