Monday, July 18, 2016
Contextual questions about the convention
As the Republican convention begins, the political context could not be stranger, and while I have posed a few questions so far, I will add a few more to keep in mind. No answers today, just questions about what might affect how the convention plays out in the journalistic narrative, and in public opinion.
1) Shootings of and by police. I'll skip the humanistic stuff and go for the cold-blooded political analysis because, well, have you met me? Political science buzzword alert. "Issue ownership." The concept is that certain issues are associated in the public mind with certain parties. Voters trust Democrats on issues like education, and they trust Republicans on issues like... crime. Sort of. At least, that was the theory back in the '80s, during the "crack epidemic," and associated fears of crime. The era produced the "Willie Horton ad," the Democratic Leadership Council, the rise of the Clintons, and their effort to push the Democratic Party to the right on crime & punishment, etc. This has sort of been scrambled lately. It is worth pointing out that violent crime, including gun crimes, have been steadily decreasing since the '90s. Regardless, every sympathetic African-American shot by the cops on video pulls the politics one way (remember Newt Gingrich's statement on racism in policing?), and every time somebody shoots cops, that pulls the politics the other. We have no idea what will happen, particularly as tension ramps up during the convention. Watch closely.
2) Turkey and other messes around the world. Remember that issue ownership concept? More uncertainty. Terrorism is supposedly an issue "owned" by Republicans. Does it work that way when Donald Trump can't find Turkey on a map and Hillary Clinton was in the loop for the raid that killed bin Laden? What happens if matters deteriorate somewhere during the convention, and in what manner, and Trump says something characteristically Trump-like about it?
3) Protests. There will be fights. How much will they escalate, and who will escalate them? How will that be reported, and how much variation will there be in reporting? The police here are requesting a temporary ban on "open carry," and that request has been denied. Regular readers here probably got annoyed at some of my unmutual comments on the politics of gun control post-Orlando, but this could get really messy, and I have no idea what will happen. Watch closely.
While I take over-the-top pride in my Pence-prescience, this convention has so many unknowable unknowns, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, that it is just worth trying to list what we can. Buckle up.