Obama: Uniter or divider?
Conflicting explanations for President Obama's mixed ratings
President Obama "rocketed to fame when he pledged to build a bridge between 'red' and 'blue' America," said Joe Murray in The Philadelphia Bulletin, but a new Pew Research Center poll shows that Obama is in the middle of "the greatest partisan divide in modern history." With Obama's approval rating at 27 percent among Republicans but 88 percent among Democrats, it's clear that the president's "far-reaching agenda" has only polarized the nation.
"This is not a reflection of the president," said Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic, "but of the opposition. Republicans are historically far more hostile to presidents of the opposite party than the Democrats." Obama has reached out, but the "Fox/Limbaugh/Drudge" crowd is more interested in "near parodic outrage" than real dialogue.
Negative feelings toward the opposing party goes both ways, said Jay Cost in RealClearPolitics. Democrats and Republicans alike have more partisan views these days. Political polarization has been on the rise since before Obama was even born, but it's hard to deny that Obama's "highly partisan" governing style has something to do with the fact that the gap is now at a 40-year high—even worse than during the contentious Bill Clinton and George W. Bush years.
But Obama isn't the reason, said Eric Kleefeld in Talking Points Memo. The real explanation is that the Republican Party is shrinking —only 24 percent of the Pew respondents identified themselves as Republicans, down from 33 percent in 2004. The people who peeled away were moderates who might have been "willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt."