ELEC­TION 2016 CAM­PAIGN OF DI­VI­SION

Vot­ers poised to go into vot­ing booths Tues­day more par­ti­san than ever to pick next pres­i­dent

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Geller

The idea had never oc­curred to the Rev. Adam Hamil­ton at the con­clu­sion of past pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns.

But this Elec­tion Day, the megachurch he leads in the Kansas City sub­urbs will in­vite con­gre­gants, and any­one else who chooses, to stop in and pray for the na­tion to heal it­self.

“There’s plenty of di­vi­sion in our coun­try every year, but this year’s elec­tion is dif­fer­ent,” said Hamil­ton, found­ing pas­tor of the 20,000-mem­ber United Methodist Church of the Res­ur­rec­tion, where two of four cam­puses will serve as polling sta­tions.

“Our fam­i­lies are di­vided. We’re di­vided some­times from our friends. Even when we’re in church here our pol­i­tics are dif­fer­ent. And I think we have to

be re­minded that there’s a big­ger pic­ture here.”

As Hamil­ton’s con­gre­gants and mil­lions of other Amer­i­cans weather the fi­nal days of a cam­paign cy­cle filled with in­sults and anger, the na­tion in­deed finds it­self at a trou­bling crossroads.

Amer­i­cans are split over im­mi­gra­tion, the changes wrought by glob­al­iza­tion, the treat­ment of mi­nori­ties and the threat of ter­ror­ism. But par­ti­san­ship, long ris­ing, has veered be­yond pol­icy dis­agree­ment. Now, roughly half of Democrats and Repub­li­cans tell poll­sters they fear those in the other party. With peo­ple in­creas­ingly en­sconced in me­dia si­los and so­cial net­works that sur­round them with like-minded views, many can­not even agree on what con­sti­tutes ba­sic facts.

The econ­omy, by al­most any em­pir­i­cal mea­sure, is healthy and gain­ing trac­tion. Yet as Amer­i­cans head to the polls, many talk about be­ing left be­hind not just by the re­cov­ery, but the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

“The un­em­ploy­ment rate right now, re­gard­less of what the num­bers say, is hor­ren­dous .... I can look here and no­body’s work­ing,” said Alan Halsey, who has a sign for Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump in the win­dow of the gen­eral store he runs in Camp­ton, Ken­tucky.

“If we con­tinue on this road, this place is go­ing to look like Iraq or Afghanistan. There’s go­ing to be noth­ing here.”

Halsey’s view­point con­trasts with fig­ures show­ing that un­em­ploy­ment na­tion­wide is down to 4.9 per­cent. Me­dian house­hold in­come jumped last year to $56,500, the high­est it has been since be­fore the bot­tom fell out of the econ­omy in 2008.

The share of Amer­i­cans liv­ing in poverty de­clined sharply last year to 13.5 per­cent. Home prices are ris­ing again, and mil­lions more peo­ple have health in­sur­ance.

But the re­bound has been slow to reach some Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­larly in man­u­fac­tur­ing and min­ing com­mu­ni­ties that have lost many jobs, said Mark Zandi, chief econ­o­mist at Moody’s An­a­lyt­ics.

“We dug our­selves into such a deep hole early on in 2008, 2009 that we’ve spent the last eight years re­ally dig­ging out of it,” Zandi said. “But if you’ve been strug­gling for more than a cou­ple or three years, you be­gin to ex­pect that that’s your world for­ever. You’re doomed and not only doomed, but your kids are doomed ... and a lot of peo­ple are still stuck in that neg­a­tive psy­chol­ogy.”

The di­vide was spot­lighted in a re­cent poll by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, ask­ing vot­ers to com­pare their lives with those of peo­ple like them 50 years ago. When Trump sup­port­ers were asked that ques­tion, 4 in 5 said life in the U.S. to­day is worse for peo­ple like them.

A nearly equal num­ber of vot­ers back­ing Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton said life to­day is just as good or bet­ter.

“This is one of the core ques­tions that speak to

the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment,” said Jo­ce­lyn Ki­ley, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of re­search for Pew. “Po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions are about more than just po­lit­i­cal is­sues, but about per­cep­tions of the state of the coun­try.”

Those dis­agree­ments don’t al­ways fit old po­lit­i­cal pi­geon­holes. But peo­ple on both sides share a sim­i­lar es­trange­ment from tra­di­tional par­ties and pol­i­tics.

Take Jerome Ni­chols, 68, a semi-re­tired ac­coun­tant from Web­ster Groves, Mis­souri, who voted early for Clin­ton.

“I am a life­long Repub­li­can, but I am sick to death of what has hap­pened to my party,” Ni­chols said. “They’re just a bunch of haters.” Mean­while Terry Wright, 59, a dis­abled union pain­ter in Louisville and a reg­is­tered Demo­crat back­ing Trump, says he has given up on his old party. Democrats backed im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies that have filled lim­ited jobs with for­eign­ers, and pushed for wel­fare pro­grams that have knocked the am­bi­tion out of younger work­ers, he

said.

Clin­ton “will be the damna­tion of Amer­ica,” he said.

With mod­ern U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns now stretch­ing over two years, it’s hardly sur­pris­ing that Amer­i­cans are tired of the can­di­dates and their com­mer­cials.

“I’m ready for the elec­tion to be over be­cause I’m sick of hear­ing about Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton and all the rhetoric,” said Natalie Blair Pounds, 52, an auto me­chanic in Den­ver, whose state is a bat­tle­ground. “But just to be on the record, I’m vot­ing for Hil­lary be­cause I don’t like the things Don­ald has said.

“I don’t like the things Don­ald has done.”

Vot­ers’ in­tense neg­a­tive feel­ings about Trump and Clin­ton may say as much about the times as the can­di­dates, said David Green­berg, a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Rut­gers Univer­sity and au­thor of “Repub­lic of Spin: An In­side His­tory of the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dency.”

“There’s some­thing about the po­lar­ized cli­mate

that we’re in that leads us to feel these things more strongly, to re­gard the op­po­si­tion with such hos­til­ity, to talk in terms of threats to the Repub­lic, to say ‘Lock her up,’ in ways we wouldn’t have 30 years ago.”

It’s a far cry from Ron­ald Rea­gan’s 1984 mes­sage that it was “morn­ing in Amer­ica.” Or Barack Obama’s 2008 call for “Change We Can Be­lieve In.” Still, many vot­ers con­tinue to ex­press faith that their voices can make a dif­fer­ence.

In Raleigh, North Car­olina, Jaque­linne Murillo, a law stu­dent who en­tered the U.S. from Mex­ico with her mother when she was 10 and be­came a U.S. cit­i­zen in May, said she looked for­ward to re­ject­ing Trump’s “very hurt­ful” por­trayal of fel­low im­mi­grants as rapists and drug deal­ers.

“It re­ally makes me re­ally happy that this is go­ing to be the first elec­tion that I can ac­tu­ally vote in. And I’m go­ing to vote. There’s no way I won’t,” she said.

Others, though, are de­cid­edly con­flicted.

“This is re­ally the only time that I can ever re­mem­ber, in any vot­ing that I’ve ever done, where I was at a loss as to who I was go­ing to vote for,” said Diane Kekoolani Bar­rett, a self­de­clared Repub­li­can in Honolulu, Hawaii.

As she ex­ited the city hall last week af­ter cast­ing an early bal­lot, she couldn’t bring her­self to name her choice for pres­i­dent. “I kept think­ing about that and, well, I hate to say it, I went with the lesser of two evils.”

AP FILE PHO­TOS

This com­bi­na­tion of pho­tos shows sup­port­ers of Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton in Tempe, Ariz., and sup­port­ers of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump in Ba­ton Rouge, La. Vot­ers’ in­tense neg­a­tive feel­ings about Trump and Clin­ton may say as much about the times as the can­di­dates, says David Green­berg, a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Rut­gers Univer­sity and au­thor of “Repub­lic of Spin: An In­side His­tory of the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dency.”

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