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Power Sheet: Do Voters Prefer Polarizing Candidates?

Do Americans want a great unifier?

It’s a question worth asking as the Democratic convention goes completely off script on Day One. In contrast to the Republicans’ gathering in Cleveland last week, this was supposed to be a disciplined, professionally run show displaying a party united for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump. Instead, anti-Clinton protests have already attracted more media attention than all the Cleveland protests combined, with some protesters even echoing the Republican chant “Lock her up!” Bernie Sanders, whom most of the protesters support, pleaded with attendees to back Clinton as the only way to beat Trump, but hundreds of delegates – not just protesters on the street – booed him raucously.

Intraparty warfare is hardly new, and it has been worse. The Democratic convention in 1924 went to 103 ballots, and I bet you can’t name the nominee. (It was a corporate lawyer named John W. Davis.) But today’s infighting is part of a larger trend of polarization at every level. Political scientists tracking legislators’ votes have shown that since World War II, both parties have moved further from the center, more so since the 1970s. Within the Senate, the same type of analysis shows that 50 years ago, liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats overlapped in a broad center containing senators of both parties. The number of senators in that centrist group has since dwindled until today there are none – there’s no overlap at all.

The polarizing trend has continued over the past week. The Democrats have produced “the most progressive platform in the party’s history,” in the words of Connecticut Governor and platform committee chairman Dannel Malloy. The Republicans have approved a platform so isolationist and anti-trade that it’s barely even Republican.

The conventional view that the country has grown more polarized is true. Now consider a disturbing possibility: Do we in fact like it that way? Are we becoming people who would rather fight than unite? The evidence is mixed. President Obama won in 2008 in part by campaigning as a unifier – voters liked that message – but polarization has galloped ahead in the past eight years. We could devote a seminar to trying to explain why. We probably shouldn’t ignore that fighting makes much better TV than harmony does.

As for the practical challenges facing the Dems, the job of this convention is to spend the first three days uniting the party behind Clinton, and then for Clinton on Day Four to begin her attempt to unite 270 electoral votes’ worth of the country behind her. After that, for whoever wins, the job is to unite the country.

Which brings us back to the question of whether a significant number of voters want that. Or is such a framing of the issue all wrong? Is the real issue not the mood of the voters but rather the absence of a leader who could unify?

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What We’re Reading Today

AB InBev raises offer for SABMiller
As the British pound continues its retreat following the Brexit vote, SABMiller investors are worried by the deal’s falling value for them. To ensure the merger of the world’s two biggest brewers, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Carlos Brito is raising the offer from £44 to £45 per share. The deal cleared U.S. regulators last week, leaving China the last country needed to sign off.  The Daily Mail

The Fed prepares action against Goldman Sachs
At issue is leaked information that a former Federal Reserve Bank of New York employee provided to a Goldman Sachs banker. While those two individuals have pleaded guilty, the Federal Reserve in Washington plans to fine Goldman and potentially pursue charges against the banker’s manager. Lloyd Blankfein‘s company has already paid $50 million to New York State regulators in connection with the case.  NYT

Yahoo’s next move
Now that Lowell McAdam‘s Verizon is buying Yahoo’s Internet business for $4.8 billion, what becomes of the rest of it? Marissa Mayer‘s company owns a 15% stake in Alibaba and a 35.5% stake in Yahoo Japan, which together account for most of Yahoo’s $36-billion market value. Many investors hope Alibaba and Yahoo Japan buy back their shares, even at a discount. Reuters

Twitter tries again to explain itself
Seemingly timed for the Democratic convention, Jack Dorsey‘s company is trying to show people all it can do. After the rollout of its new Moments feature and TV commercials didn’t catch users’ eyes, it’s releasing two videos, one highlighting how Twitter can be used to follow politics, in hopes of attracting new users. Twitter will announce second quarter results today. Fortune

Building a Better Leader

When investors see an even equity split among startup founders…
…they often assume the leaders don’t understand how much responsibility lies ahead or aren’t savvy enough to ask tough questions to get a sense of their workloads. TechCrunch

Finding a female mentor in entrepreneurial circles…
…can be challenging because most tech firms are started by men. Women who do identify mentors should approach them with a clear purpose. Fortune

To turn an industrial company into a digital one…
…question the company’s core beliefs and the systems that support them. Upend those beliefs, including revenue models and measurement, then test to see if the new model works for your company and industry.  Knowledge@Wharton

At the Democratic Convention

Discord is the Day One theme
Hillary Clinton
‘s hopes of smoothly easing Bernie Sanders‘s followers into the fold were dashed by boos last night. As speakers moved to the podium to tout Clinton, Sanders supporters shouted them down, chanting for the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership. Some protesters even called for Clinton to go to prison for mishandling her email server. Fortune

Sanders couldn’t hold them back
, himself couldn’t quiet some of his flock, despite saying that Clinton “must become the next president of the United States.” The only speaker to steal the show and silence the critics was First Lady Michelle Obama. She attacked Donald Trump by speaking about the importance of leaders who care and show it through words and actions. Washington Post

FBI expands DNC hacking investigation
The FBI has begun to investigate whether aides or organizations with close Clinton ties were targeted by the hackers suspected of leaking data from the Democratic National Committee’s servers. Evidence so far suggests the hackers tried and failed to infiltrate other organizations’ servers. NYT

Up or Out

Nike has hired Skip Potter as its CTO. Fortune

Fortune Reads and Videos

SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son believes its investment in ARM Holdings…
…will enable the company to compete with Facebook, Google, and Amazon. SoftBank agreed to buy ARM last week for $32 billion. Fortune

A Florida judge has ruled that bitcoin…
…isn’t money. The case involves charges of money laundering, but Miami-Dade Circuit judge Teresa Mary Pooler says there isn’t money laundering if there isn’t money. Fortune

Star Wars toy sales could beat last year
About $300 million of Star Wars toys have already been sold, which suggests the number could surpass $700 million by year end. That’s a boost for Hasbro. Fortune

Toys ‘R’ Us has a new opening for President of Play
They’re looking for one lucky kid between 9 and 13 to test toys. Fortune

Quote of the Day

“[T]he story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight. The story of people who felt the last of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done, so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves…Don’t let anyone tell you that the country isn’t great…We cannot afford to be tired or frustrated or cynical.” — Michelle Obama speaking at the Democratic National Convention.  Washington Post

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau