William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE GREAT UNIFIER – NOT – AT 10:06 A.M. ET:   Even the liberal Washington Post is now conceding that President Obama, who came to office expecting to reach out his hands and unify a sinful America, is the most polarizing president in memory.  The numbers show it:

President Obama ran — and won — in 2008 on the idea of uniting the country. But, each of his first three years in office have marked historic highs in political polarization, with Democrats largely approving of him and Republicans deeply disapproving.

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.

What do those numbers tell us? Put simply: that the country is hardening along more and more strict partisan lines.

COMMENT:  I think that's true, and, although I'd like to, I can't blame it all on Obama.  Our parties are becoming increasingly ideological, and increasingly run by their most rigid elements.  It is a danger.  The genius of American politics lies in its practicality, not its ideology.  Americans tend to be idealistic, but not ideological.  Historically, at least during the greater part of the Cold War, there was a general consensus on foreign policy, a consensus that's been eroding since the late 1960s. 

The only thing that can get the parties back on track is strong, popular leadership.  I believe the public is yearning for that right now, and is not getting it from either party.

January 30, 2012