'Unity' Mural

'Unity' mural

'Unity' mural

With the help of The Local Fishtown and the expertise of artist, Keith Warren Grieman, I created a mural focused around the notion of unity. Since the election, we are not a unified nation.

The major reason the 2016 US presidential election didn’t go that way was negative partisanship. This is the tendency to vote for a party not mainly because you like it, but because you are repulsed by the other major party. Democrats vote for their party more because they want to prevent Republicans from winning than because of affection for their party’s candidates, and vice versa. The logic of negative partisanship is unaffected when your party nominates a weak candidate.

Trump was a very unusual Republican candidate. He tacked on a lot of unconventional positions and scandals on top of some standard conservative positions. And his history of wildly inconsistent positions made it uncertain if he would even stick through his whole term with the conservative positions he did support.

But on the other side, the Democrats nominated a person who was tightly associated with the party and liberalism. Clinton has been a national figure since her husband ran for president in 1992. Even beyond that, she has been practically a Zelig of modern liberal politics. She was a staff member on the congressional Watergate committee. She originally kept her maiden name (as many feminists did in the 1970s), but changed it after Bill Clinton lost his gubernatorial reelection race in 1980, which some in Arkansas blamed on Hillary’s feminism.

She was controversial for her liberalism and feminism in the 1992 presidential campaign. The presidential first lady cookie-baking contest, which we now see as a staple of presidential campaign, actually began in 1992 when Family Circle magazine wanted to put Clinton in her place after she was quoted saying, “I could have just stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decide to do was to fulfill my profession. ...” She was first lady with a Democratic president, a prominent Democratic senator, and secretary of state in a Democratic administration. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has a significant issue in 2016, was a case about campaign spending attacking her.

The big question in the 2016 election was whether Trump would underperform a traditional Republican. Historically, it is hard for an American party to win a third presidential term. It has only happened once (1988) since World War II. Had the Republicans thrown away a great opportunity by nominating Trump? It turns out the answer was no.

The election turned out approximately as one would expect based on moderate economic growth in 2016 and a party running for its third term in the White House. Republicans didn’t suffer an electoral penalty for nominating Trump. The biggest reason is that voters who usually support Republicans almost all “came home” to favoring Trump on Election Day. A similar phenomenon happened at the elite level. Most national Republican politicians (Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, Mitch McConnell, most senators and House members) endorsed Trump. Those few Republicans who didn’t endorse Trump (John Kasich, Jeb and George W. Bush) didn’t endorse Clinton.

Negative partisanship swayed Republicans at the mass and elite level. Many Republicans voted for their party’s nominee primarily in order to avoid a Clinton presidency. Clinton, with her high visibility and close connection with liberalism, is almost ideally suited to activating Republicans’ traditional partisan and ideological loyalties.

The country would be substantially better off if the electorate penalized parties for nominating inexperienced, uniformed, impulsive, corrupt candidates for president. Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, you would be better off if the Republicans in 2016 had nominated and elected Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or even Mike Pence. One of them would implement many of the same policies, but without the massive corruption, the degradation of American political institutions, the danger of starting a major military conflict by accident or incompetence rather than ideology, or the many other Trump specific pathologies.
— "Negative partisanship may be the most toxic form of polarization" by Jonathan M. Ladd of Vox

And with this mural, I hope we can overcome and be reminded of our own humanity.




Deva WatsonComment