Union vs. Disunion

From what has been said at the Republican and Democrat Conventions, one can infer that the binaries “union vs. disunion” and “inclusion vs. exclusion” are starting to play a major role in each’s party narrative for this 2016 presidential election. These two pairs intertwine with the opposition “forwardness vs. backwardness” I commented on in my previous post.

Under Trump’s leadership, Republicans are looking at a worldview that underlines exclusion and border protection at a national level and unilateralism coupled with isolationism in the international arena. Racial and cultural differences will be emphasized. A mindset that channels “White America’s” understanding of the world will take the front seat.

On his speech closing the Republican Convention, Trump spoke of “a moment of crisis,” of “crime and terror and lawlessness,” of “killings and homicides going up,” of “illegal immigrants roaming the streets threatening innocent civilians.” He painted a situation in which “safety will [have to] be restored,” promising “law and order.” (The phrase is loaded with negative racial undertones within the modern American imagination.) He defended “an immigration system that works for the American people” (whatever that is supposed to mean). He spoke of America’s “humiliation” in the international stage. “The situation is worse than ever before,” he concluded.

There has been plenty of going back and forth between the two sides arguing if Trump’s description of reality actually fits statistics and factual data. Left wing political commentary has been busy rebuking Trump’s message as a bunch of falsehoods. But leaving aside this debate about Trump’s tendency to lacking real facts to back up what he says, what is important is that Trump’s analysis emphasizes negativity and foments exclusion and individuality as sources of solutions–starting with his bold statement that “I alone can fix” the system. Perhaps nothing captures better Trump’s mindset that his (and his followers’) obsession with building “The Wall” that will protect the Southern border from illegal immigration. The Wall works beautifully as a metaphor of what Trump believes on and will be trying to accomplish.

In contrast, during their convention Democrats relentlessly presented the United States as a paean to unity, through the welcoming of diversity and each other’s differences. In his acceptance speech, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine defended the United States as “a beautiful and rich tapestry.” Bernie Sanders mentioned in his talk that “our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.” As one political commentator put it, Hillary Clinton is trying to put together “the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic party.”

Hillary herself, in her acceptance speech that closed the Convention, solidified the narrative of the need for a common will and a collective effort to fix the nation together. She proposed to put the “we” over the “I,” and to tap into the wealth of skills and the strength of character American people have to find solutions. That, Hillary said, will lead America to solve the problems.

According to the Democrats’ worldview, the community, the individual plays an active role in bettering society. Hillary’s speech emphasized the essential need for every person to transcend himself or herself and be part of something bigger; to foster and cherish a community-oriented response to challenges; and to believe in collective social responsibility to tackle issues. Versus Trump’s “I alone can fix it,” Clinton proposed that “It takes a village” to better life’s conditions.


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