"The Fix" in today's Washington Post offers up this headline:
When you look at how divided this country is that could be easy to conclude, but is it President Obama's fault? First let's take a look at how they come to this conclusion:
For 2011, Obama’s third year in office, an average of 80 percent of Democrats approved of the job he was doing in Gallup tracking polls, as compared to 12 percent of Republicans who felt the same way. That’s a 68-point partisan gap, the highest for any president’s third year in office — ever. (The previous high was George W. Bush in 2007, when he had a 59 percent difference in job approval ratings.)
In 2010, the partisan gap between how Obama was viewed by Democrats versus Republicans stood at 68 percent; in 2009, it was 65 percent. Both were the highest marks ever for a president’s second and first years in office, respectively.
But consider what this President has had to go through. Before he even took the oath of office, one of the biggest voices proudly proclaimed that he wanted to see "this President fail". Now many try to say "Rush Limbaugh is just a radio personality", but that sentiment was quickly picked up by actual politicians, including Rick Santorum, who is currently a Republican presidential candidate. Furthermore, any Republican politician who tried to soften Rush's words ended up on his show apologizing to him.
Then we have all the other stuff he has endured from the right. Take the whole birther thing as an example. This wasn't some rogue group of unknowns pushing the conspiracy theory that President Obama's parents colluded with the state of Hawaii in the early 60's to fake his birth in the United States just so he could become President some day. It was echoed by some of the loudest mouths out there, like Donald Trump, unlike the truther movement that tried to say George Bush orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, which were denounced by every mainstream Democrat out there.
But going back to the numbers, they are actually misleading. First off George Bush saw a 76% gap in his 4th year, which was an election year. His gap did decrease after that, but not for the reasons you might think. Here's the chart that Gallup and the WaPo used:
The gap did decline for Bush in years 4-6, but that wasn't because Democrats started to approve of Bush. Actually the opposite occurred - Democrats view of Bush kept declining, but so did the Republicans.
The article does sum it up rather nice:
“Obama’s ratings have been consistently among the most polarized for a president in the last 60 years,” concludes Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones in a memo summing up the results. “That may not be a reflection on Obama himself as much as on the current political environment in the United States, because Obama’s immediate predecessor, Bush, had similarly polarized ratings, particularly in the latter stages of his presidency after the rally in support from the 9/11 terror attacks faded.”
Our guess is that Jones’ latter hypothesis is the right one — that we are simply living in an era in which Democrats dislike a Republican president (and Republicans dislike a Democratic one) even before the commander in chief has taken a single official action.
And this is a problem with our society today. The new millennium ushered in a period of the 24 hour opinion cycle. Instead of hearing news, we are flooded with people offering the grimmest opinion of the opposition possible. We live in a period where the quick zinger sound bite is also the win. A perfect example is what right wing darling Allen West (R-Fl) said over the weekend:
"We need to let President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, (audience boos) and my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain't on the table," West said. "Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America."
A member of Congress telling people that he doesn't agree with to "get the hell out of America". I don't believe President Obama ever said anything that polarizing and if he did I would blast him for that. The best ideas in this country were the product of politicians from both sides of the aisle working together. We can't have that today, especially when we have a Speaker of the House who proudly claims "hell no" to anything the President asks for and even calls the State of the Union address "pathetic" before even hearing it.
I'll be the first to admit that the left has engaged in it's fair share of bashing the right, but the right has taken it to a whole new level. The Republicans have shown since 2009 that they care more about their party than they do the country. Mitch McConnell proved that when he said they didn't want to see the economy improve so that they can win back the White House. They are willing to let people become homeless and children starve just to gain political power.
It's time for America to try and unite, but that isn't going to happen until we get some grown-ups that denounce that crazy talk from our politicians and media personalities. Until that happens American will continue down this dark path of severe partisanship and nothing will be accomplished in this country. That's what these numbers really show me and I wish the Washington Post would have mentioned that.