(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Chuck Burton)

THE MORNING PLUM:

With many political observers and commentators wringing their hands about the failure of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to unite the country in the wake of police killings in both directions, your humble blogger has tried to argue that this is the wrong line of inquiry. (Never mind whether the country is even as divided as some of these observers say.) Instead, for the reasons I’ve tried to outline, we should be pointing out that one of the two candidates is actively trying to divide the country, while the other just isn’t.

Today the New York Times’s Nicholas Confessore weighs in with a massive, deeply reported piece that underscores the point as emphatically as one could wish for. Here’s the thesis:

In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.

Mr. Trump has attacked Mexicans as criminals. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has wondered aloud why the United States is not “letting people in from Europe.”

His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.

But in doing so, Mr. Trump has also opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life.

Read the whole piece for the full thrust of the argument, but for now, note this quote from Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate groups: “I think what we really find troubling is the mainstreaming of these really offensive ideas. It’s allowed some of the worst ideas into the public conversation in ways we haven’t seen anything like in recent memory.” The piece’s ultimate conclusion is that Trump has made “the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread.”

What is really striking about all of this is that most observers, including neutral, non-ideological, and non-partisan ones, would not even quarrel with the idea that Trump is running a campaign that is explicitly about unleashing white backlash. For months, this has been widely, openly agreed upon by pretty much everyone who is paying even cursory attention. Yet oddly enough, this widely accepted acknowledgment of Trump’s explicit efforts to foment racial division is not being meaningfully brought to bear on the current debate over the two candidates’ responses to police-community tensions. (There are certainly exceptions to this; I’m talking generally here.) Clinton has repeatedly tried to acknowledge that the police and those protesting their use of force both have legitimate grievances; Trump has not done this to anywhere near the same degree.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump praised police officers on Tuesday, after five police officers were killed by a gunman in Dallas. He mentioned two black men killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, calling the shootings "tough." (Reuters)

By the way, Americans appear to agree that Trump is the far more divisive figure. A new Allstate/Atlantic Media/Heartland Monitor poll finds that Americans say by 48-30 that Clinton would do more to “bring the country together.” All of this is not to say that Clinton is not a polarizing figure in her own right. Rather, it is to say that, given the political conditions in this country, it is hard for one of the major party nominees not to be widely disliked by the other side; meanwhile, Trump is actively trying to foment and politically profit off of racial division in a way Clinton simply is not.

This morning brings new examples of this fundamental difference between the two candidates. Let’s hope that they help bring wider acknowledgment of that fundamental difference.

 * HILLARY TO SPEAK ON RACE: Clinton is set to speak today at the site of Lincoln’s “house divided” speech on the need to unify in the wake of police-community violence:

Mrs. Clinton will expand on her remarks calling on white people to express more empathy with blacks who fear for their lives in encounters with the police. And she will reiterate her call for understanding about the difficult job police officers do, “kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to a dangerous job.”

In other words, Clinton will once again speak to grievances on both sides, as she has been doing. Meanwhile, Trump claims Black Lives Matter is inherently racist. Spot the difference there?

* THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, TRUMP-IS-A-UNITER EDITION: Talking Points Memo reports that Trump told Bill O’Reilly that unnamed people called for a “moment of silence” for the killer of five police officers in Dallas:

“It’s getting more and more obvious and it’s very sad, very sad,” Trump went on. “When somebody called for a moment of silence to this maniac that shot the five police, you just see what’s going on. It’s a very, very sad situation.” There were no media reports about anyone calling for a moment of silence for gunman Micah Johnson.

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of video showing this happened, just like with the thousands and thousands of American Muslims who supposedly celebrated 9/11. The media is just suppressing it.

 * SANDERS TO ‘STUMP HEAVILY’ FOR CLINTON: In a new interview, Bernie Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver previews a very heavy campaigning schedule for him:

“I think the senator’s intentions is to stump quite heavily for the secretary all across the country, obviously and specifically in the battleground states. In addition to that, he’ll be campaigning for down-ballot progressive Democrats in states all across the country — whether they are battlegrounds or not in battlegrounds. I think you are going to see a lot of Senator Sanders on the stump.”

Wait, so all of those people who told you that Sanders would destroy the Democratic Party before backing Clinton got it completely wrong?

* TRUMP WINNING IN FLORIDA AND PENNSYLVANIA? A new batch of Quinnipiac polls finds that Donald Trump is beating Hillary Clinton in Florida by 42-39 and in Pennsylania by 43-41, while it’s tied in Ohio at 41-41. But that would mean Clinton lost eight points of support in Florida from last month, while Trump gained three points — a huge swing.

Meanwhile, the Q-polls are out of sync with the polling averages, which have Clinton up by three in Florida, five in Pennsylvania, and three in Ohio. Stick to the averages, folks.

* CLINTON CAMP RESPONDS TO NEW POLLS: Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon tweets:

For the umpteenth time, Dems are not complacent about Trump.

* NEW BATTLEGROUND POLLS COMING LATER TODAY: NBC’s Mark Murray teases that new NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls of Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are coming at 5 p.m. today. These are good polls, so they should be taken seriously, but remember that the averages are the most important.

* CHATTER TURNS AGAINST WARREN AS VEEP: The New York Times reports that Elizabeth Warren has been invited to speak on the first night of the Democratic convention, which could mean that she will not be tapped as Clinton’s Veep candidate:

Even Ms. Warren’s allies are now increasingly skeptical that she will join the ticket as the famously cautious Mrs. Clinton enjoys a steady lead in the polls over Donald J. Trump and is eyeing Democrats who are less dynamic than Ms. Warren but would not overshadow her on the campaign trail or in the White House.

Also, now that Bernie Sanders has offered a full throated endorsement of Clinton, which is likely to rally progressives, that might also tilt against picking Warren.

* SANDERS PROBABLY ISN’T IN VEEP MIX: Sanders said this morning on ABC News that the idea of tapping him as Veep “has not been raised yet.” That would appear to mean he is not being vetted, though anything is possible.