Transpartisan Note #5

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

Reports agree: the Republican and Democratic conventions differed profoundly. Yet Transpartisan possibilities in both went unreported.

Both conventions represented common, unitary visions and realities—‘dark’ and angry (GOP: party-out-things-are-terrible) versus aspirational and joyous (Democrats: party-in-things-are-hopeful).

This year’s conventions revealed serious conflicts. Many unhappy, angry people in both parties have new ways to express themselves. “Grievances” dominated Republicans while Democrats, celebrating eight years in power, air-brushed differences.

Still, new themes, like flashing lightning, give glimpses of an emerging political horizon. They suggest a less visible — we say Transpartisan — environment surrounding this election.

“Like many of my fellow millennials,” Ivanka Trump said, “I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat…” Bernie Sanders passionately endorsed Hilary Clinton, then reinforced his Independent Senate affiliation.

Reports say about 70% of voters believe the country is going in the wrong direction (slightly above the forty-year norm), without reporting that conservatives say the country is too liberal and liberals say it is too conservative.

39% of voters now register as Independents, more than either Democrats or Republicans, refusing major party affiliation. Another 33% opt out of registering at all. The two major parties, combined, form a distinct minority.

The story is deep hostility toward major party elites. A majority of the public wants something different. The Trump and Sanders populist appeals feed on this hostility, and share the negative slogan, “not the other”.

Deep divisions remain. Key GOP leaders avoided the convention. Conservative intellectuals oppose the (wildly divergent–compare Trump and Pence speeches) ticket. Sanders supporters are working out their anger, while liberal intellectuals espouse “win first, then worry.”

The conventions presented “more of the same” versus “break up the furniture”—a recipe for continuing dysfunction. The future belongs to the flashes of Transpartisan impulses voiced at both conventions. We will explore these impulses in future Transpartisan Notes and The Transpartisan Review.

(Photo of 2008 Democratic Convention by user “Qqqqqq” found here and licensed CC BY-SA 3.0.)

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