One of the arguments advanced in favor of electing Barack Obama President was that Obama, as President, would unite the country that had become so divided by George W. Bush. According to a recent Pew study, President Obama has failed utterly in that task.
According to Newsmax:
“The poll indicates that 88 percent of Democrats approve of the president’s job performance, while just 27 percent of Republicans say the same thing – a 61-point difference.
“By comparison, the gap for President George W. Bush at a similar point in his administration was 51 points. It was 45 for Bill Clinton, 38 for George H. W. Bush, and 46 for Ronald Reagan.”
Newsmax suggests that there are two opposing explanations for the partisan divide. One explanation is that the divide has grown over the past thirty or so years. “Richard Nixon at the start of his first term in 1969 had a partisan gap of only 29 percent, and Jimmy Carter in 1977 of only 25 percent. Since then the gulf has widened with every new presidency other than the elder George Bush who succeeded in reducing the gap after Reagan to 38 percent.”
The other explanation is that President Obama has brought the partisan divide on himself by proposing an ambitious and far left agenda that is bound to annoy a great many Americans. High taxes and massive spending has sparked a push back from the right, which has manifested itself in the New American Tea Party movement.
Neither explanation is very convincing. Americans of all persuasions were certainly pleased that the first African American President had been elected and were willing to give him a chance. President Reagan certainly had an ambitious agenda, from a conservative point of view, of tax cuts and defense increases. George W. Bush ascended to the Presidency by winning the electoral vote but not the popular vote after an acrimonious court battle over the election.
The discontent with Barack Obama, at least among Republicans, appears to stem from a disconnect between the Obama of the campaign and President Obama. Obama’s famous campaign rallies, with young people swooning in the aisles to the chants of “Yes we can!” exuded a kind of optimism that, combined with the economic crisis in the fall of 2008, propelled Barack Obama to the White House. If Republicans and conservatives feared that Obama would govern left, they were willing, at least for a while, to give him a chance to move to the center.
That move to the center never happened. Barack Obama seems to have adopted the old, left wing strategy of socialism at home and appeasement abroad. Massive domestic spending increases, defense cut backs, and tax hikes have been the features of Obama’s domestic policy. Obama’s foreign policy seems to consist of apologizing for imagined American ills and appeasing America’s enemies. Add that to several missteps, including a number of cabinet appointees who have had to withdraw their names from nomination, and one gets a formula for serious disappointment and discontent.
History shows us that the partisan divide may only get worse. And even more disquieting for the Obama administration is, according to a story in the National Journal, Independents are starting to pull away from Congressional Democrats. That development could lead to massive losses for Obama’s party in the Congress in the midterm elections, when traditionally the party in power gets punished. People may want to return Republicans to power as a check on President Obama. Ironically this may be to Obama’s political advantage. President Clinton enjoyed his greatest success when the Gingrich revolution forced him to move to the center and he had a Republican Congress to play against (at least until the Lewinsky Scandal consumed his Presidency.)
Sources: Obama: Most Polarizing President Ever, Newsmax, April 6th, 2009
Are Independents Going The GOP’s Way?, Kevin Friedl, National Journal, April 7th, 2009