This is a huge weekend in The Bronx, with the rare “corpse flower” blooming at the New York Botanical Garden. The enormous plant flowers only once every 10 years and is noted for, as the garden gently puts it, the “infamous odor it releases during its brief 24-36-hour peak.”
Visitors say the odor resembles a “dead animal” or “rotting flesh,” while The Guardian newspaper found a 6-year-old boy who got a whiff and declared it “worse than a thousand pukes.”
Naturally, huge crowds are rushing to smell for themselves.
It could be a coincidence, but the bloom coincides with the start of the presidential general election, and there is another similarity as well: the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is also a hold-your-nose affair that is attracting huge crowds.
Having spent most of the last two weeks at the parties’ spirited conventions, I return to earth not with an infamous odor but with an ominous feeling. It goes beyond the flaws that Clinton and Trump both feature and the devilish web of problems the next president will face.
My sense of dread stems from the fact that each party is speaking to a very different America. And not just about politics, but also about clashing concepts of pretty much everything.
What those two Americas have in common is receding by the day, while their differences intensify and multiply.
Here are some observations, and which party is which is obvious: We have the party of anger on one hand and the party of entitlement on the other. One party is fed up, the other wants to be fed. One wants free markets, the other wants free stuff.
These are vast generalizations, but they contain much more than a kernel of truth. These differences dictate the choice of nominees and the policies they pursue.
So one party wants lower taxes, the other wants higher taxes, one wants fewer regulations, the other wants more.
Go a step further, and it’s Blue Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter. One party vows to destroy radical Islam, the other refuses to say its name.
Conventions always aim to offer contrasts as motivation, but this year’s polarization is more dangerous because neither candidate has much crossover appeal. Trump and Clinton deserve each other because they share the distinction of having the highest negative ratings ever held by presidential nominees.