According to Gallup, President Obama has been one of the most polarizing Presidents since 1953. In his first year, 88% of Democrats and 23% of Republicans approved of his performance, representing a 65 point partisan gap. This easily outranked the previous record of 52 points during President Bill Clinton’s first year. But, in President Obama’s second year, the gap grew to 68 points, with 81% of Democrats and 13% of Republicans approving of his performance. This easily defeated the 56 point record during President Ronald Reagan’s second year. Overall, Obama’s 68 point gap ranks 4th place all-time, trailing President George W. Bush’s top three worst finishes at 70, 72, and 76 points respectively.
Like President George W. Bush, President Obama entered office proclaiming that he would unite the country, work successfully across the aisle, and change the tone of DC’s venomous partisanship. Thus far, the numbers seem to indicate that President Obama, like President George W. Bush, has failed in this arena. America remains a highly divided nation.
However, I would argue that President Obama does not deserve all the blame. For example, shouldn’t a much higher percentage of Republicans approve of Obama’s performance? After all, President Obama recently extended Bush’s tax cuts and has followed a virtually identical foreign policy to that of Bush, spending even more money on the military, sending 51,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and launching a record number of drone strikes in Pakistan. Tax cuts and a hawkish foreign policy were stalwarts of the George W. Bush era.
And shouldn’t a much higher percentage of Democrats disapprove of Obama’s performance? After all, he has continued, even escalated, George W. Bush’s foreign policy, extended Bush’s much-maligned tax cuts, backed down on a public health care option, done little on immigration reform and the environment, and remained resistant to gay marriage.
Perhaps the American people should bear part of the blame, then. Obama’s approval rating, like that of Bush, may be more reflective of a populace that has succumbed to mindless partisanship, rather than independent-minded critical thinking. “Cheering for one’s team” has replaced fair-minded evaluation and results-oriented policy assessment.
And what have been the results over the last ten years? A moderate recession, a severe recession, record budget deficits, $9 trillion of more debt, stagnant wages, higher prices, nearly 6,000 dead and over 40,000 wounded US troops, and deteriorating education performance just to name a few.