|This Pew Research chart is revealing in a number of ways, but chiefly as an indicator of the intense polarization afflicting the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Notably, the approval numbers by Republicans for Obama started low and rapidly declined to historic lows. On the other hand, Obama's support by Democrats has been solid, more so than for any other Democrat since Kennedy. This has created enormous divisions in the country, which have made the government on a number of occasions almost unworkable. The nation is rapidly approaching a breaking point in the willingness of voters to tolerate the status quo. This week's ouster of GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is just one example of this.|
A Pew chart going back to President Dwight Eisenhower and coming forward to the present, shows most presidents losing ground in terms of approval over the course of their terms—even in support from their own parties. In fact, the only recent president who experienced a large uptick in his approval ratings—from both political parties—was Bill Clinton, whom the Republicans tried to throw out of office with an impeachment trial.
President Obama and President Clinton share something, a kind of post-Atwater reality of conservative partisanship—both Democrats started out with terrible approval numbers from Republicans, with Obama actually coming in a little better than Clinton at the start of his presidency.
But since Obama's inauguration, it has been downhill for his GOP support, with his numbers actually lower than any other Democratic president for the same period. Indeed, in simple terms, Obama faces the most politically polarized America in over half a century, at least.
The question is whether Obama is the problem, or the increasing partisanship in politics is the problem. Since Obama was never afforded any support whatsoever from Republicans, and indeed Republican Congressional leaders set out from day one to destroy his presidency, the fact Obama has been limited in his successes is understandable. And this is in addition to the fact, and it is a considerable and necessary fact to consider, that Obama was taking on the most monumental problems the US had faced since the end of World War II.
One might have thought the GOP would have been willing to sacrifice a little political advantage to work for the good of the nation. But that is just the problem. The political divisions in the country are so severe at this time, that the "good of the nation" simply doesn't mean the same thing to most Democrats as it does to most Republicans.
For example, as the Pew study explains, in a time when inequality has exploded in the US to a point worse than any other time since the pre-Crash 1920s, Republicans increasingly think of the most vulnerable Americans as a bunch of well-cared-for deadbeats:
"For instance, while Democrats have always been more supportive than Republicans of the social safety net, the partisan divide on these questions has increased substantially over the last 20 years. Two-thirds of Republicans (66%) believe that “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return;” just 25% say “poor people have hard lives because government benefits don't go far enough to help them live decently.” Among Democrats, just 28% believe the poor have it easy. The partisan gap on this measure is now 38 points, up from 19 points in 1994 and 26 points in 2004."There is, in other words, not just a severe political division in the land, but a deeply moral one as well. And the last time a deeply moral division split the nation so thoroughly on fundamental questions of policy, the United States went to war with itself to stop slavery. It is no surprise that the values of the Republican Party—indeed the very flag of the Tea Party—are rooted in the traitorous Southern Confederacy. As I have noted many times, this region of the country now forms the base and the basis of the modern Republican Party.
This is not a partisan divide with a bridge. Only a prospect of a demographic deliverance. Sí, se puede.