Reporter Patrick Healy made the front of Friday's New York Times marveling at how differently Republicans and Democrats see America in "One Nation, Under Debate. Or Are There 2?"
Healy, who is hypersensitive to the political strengths of Hillary Clinton, portrayed the substantive issues raised by the Republican presidential field as making them seem dour and negative, while his strange choice of cultural commentators for a political story -- playwrights Christopher Durang and Tony Kushner -- betrayed a left-wing cultural perspective.
He spun the rigorous internal debate on substantive, weighty issues by the GOP as somehow a negative, compared to the Democrat's frothy optimism and focus on small-bore issues like the minimum wage.
In one portrait of the nation put forward at the recent Republican presidential debates, America’s moral core is rotting, its citizens tolerating rampant abortions and even the dissection of fetuses for profit.
In the alternate reality described at Tuesday’s Democratic debate, counteracting climate change and protecting African-Americans from police shootings are the most pressing moral imperatives.
Republican candidates say capitalism is buckling under high taxes, regulations and social welfare programs. Democrats question capitalism itself, saying Wall Street and the super-rich are starving the middle class of hope.
See how Healy took a different, more questioning tone with Republicans:
The right has portrayed the southern border as something like a zombie movie, swarming with murderous Mexicans. On the left, illegal immigrants look like hard workers who deserve a path to citizenship.
....Democrats talked about criminal justice; Republicans dwelled on what they called the criminalization of a Christian county clerk who took a stand against same-sex marriage.
Healy, a former theater reporter for the NYT, talked to playwright Christopher Durang, who targeted Republican candidate Carly Fiorina for misspeaking slightly about the grisly contents of a Planned Parenthood sting video (while career misspeakers and plagiarizers like Joe Biden continue to stalk the political landscape).
“The parties are definitely not talking about the same United States, which is really nuts, given that voters are so desperate for big solutions that will bring the nation together,” said Christopher Durang, a playwright who specializes in political absurdism and social satire. “You have Carly Fiorina still insisting that videos show babies being carved up, even though this has been disproved. You have the Democrats suggesting that people are doing well but could do better, when a lot of people feel they aren’t doing well at all. You just wonder what country all these candidates live in.”
After Healy let a Dartmouth professor go negative on the Republicans for having too many candidates and creating a divide, he portrayed the Democrats as "optimistic" but the Republicans were sounding "dark notes" by actually discussing substantive moral and foreign policy issues.
The tone of the two parties’ candidates is sharply at odds, too. Democrats on Tuesday were more optimistic, talking of clean energy and debt-free public college, while expressing impatience with the pace of progress on raising the minimum wage and changing campaign finance rules.
Republicans, who barely touched on those issues in their debates on Aug. 6 and Sept. 16, sounded dark notes about same-sex marriage, China, the Iranian nuclear deal and the “complete disaster” that is the Affordable Care Act. And they were more likely than the Democrats to point fingers at one another -- and to attack their leading candidate, Donald J. Trump -- while finding fault with President Obama and his policies.
Showing a dubious concept of ideological balance, Healy quoted Republican strategist Frank Luntz also criticizing Republicans: “As of now, the Democrats are set to emerge from the primaries far more unified....If anything, the Democratic debate should be a wake-up call to Republicans to pay attention to just how divisive and negative they are acting.”
He then went to Marxist playwright and gay activist Kushner, whose Angels in America ravaged the Reagan administration for alleged inaction during the AIDS outbreak:
Tony Kushner, whose screenplay about an earlier American divide earned him an Oscar nomination for the 2012 film “Lincoln,” said the bellicose language and anti-establishment themes at the Republican debates -- that government is bad and elected officials are suspect -- put the country “in a very perilous place,” because the candidates appeared to be abandoning policy making and governing.