Is this ‘the most divisive president in history’?

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There are lies that you tell to others, and lies that you tell to yourself. The ones that you tell yourself are usually the most destructive.

Take, for example, the oft-told lie among Republicans that “Barack Obama is the most divisive president in history”, or something like that. According to that line of thinking, Republicans were prepared to work alongside and compromise with President Obama when he took office in 2009, operating as a loyal opposition, but a dictatorial Obama poisoned the well and made it impossible.

Historians are going to have a damn good laugh at that one, for a variety of reasons:

1.) The premise of the GOP claim seems to be that if Obama didn’t exist, or if some other, more reasonable Democrat occupied the White House, then the anger and resentment driving the GOP base also wouldn’t exist. As it happens, that premise is easy to test.

Once upon a time, you may remember, Republicans offered up Hillary Clinton as an example of that mythical “more reasonable Democrat” with whom they could work. If “the Hildebeast” wins this election, do you think the anger and resentment that defines the GOP will recede? Did it recede during the presidency of Bill Clinton, the man they voted to impeach, the man they accused of murder, rape and drug-running? Would it disappear if Bernie Sanders were president, or John Kerry?

We all know the answer to that one.

2.) Look at the GOP’s own internal dynamics. Surely Obama can’t be accused of causing divisiveness within the GOP, where in fact he serves as a unifying figure whom all agree to hate. Yet somehow, anger, resentment and divisiveness are rampant within the party, to the point that even many Republicans fear that the party could break apart.

Republicans hate their own leadership. Did Obama cause that? They ran off John Boehner as speaker — the man who didn’t dare utter the word “compromise” for fear of losing his job — and they thoroughly despise Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who boasts a 16 percent job approval rating among Republican voters. Did Obama cause that divisiveness too?

The two leading GOP presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have elbowed their way to the front by milking that loathing of the GOP base for their own establishment. And listen to them talk about each other: Trump calls Cruz a cheater who stole the Iowa election, Cruz says Trump would nuke Denmark. Chris Christie likens Cruz and Marco Rubio to grade-schoolers, dismissing Rubio as “the boy in the bubble” who doesn’t dare go off the script written for him by his elders. Jeb Bush’s Super PAC has attacked Rubio as a weathervane forever shifting in the wind, and for Rubio’s supposedly effeminate choice of footwear, and Jeb is routinely dismissed by the rest of his party as a hapless mama’s boy.

Is that Obama’s fault? The evidence is strong that the fear and anger within the GOP is not caused by some outside agency, but is inherent within the movement to such a degree that they now know no other way of functioning.

3.) Try to imagine the GOP today WITHOUT fear, anger and resentment as animating factors. It could not exist. The talk radio industry, the conservative websites, the faux “Tea Party” pressure groups constantly begging conservatives for donations so they can fend off the pending collapse of Western civilization for one more day — the entire conservative infrastructure relies on divisiveness as its mother’s milk. They are in favor of nothing and against everything, because that’s where the money is.

That last point is critical and loaded with irony. We’re watching what happens when a political party that worships the profit motive above all else tries to apply that principle by thoroughly privatizing itself. If you think about how the modern GOP now works, it has abdicated all of its major functions — its messaging, its strategy, its selection of leadership, its goal-setting — to those whose primary goal is generating dollars for their own profit.

Free-market ideology says that ought to work great. When everybody is doing what is most profitable for themselves, theory says that the goals of the larger entity are somehow served, but it often doesn’t work out like that. In this case, the outsourcing of its central functions has left the Republican Party with no entity that is capable of making a decision for the party’s greater good and then seeing that the decision is enforced. They are instead driven by what sells — not what’s best for the country or the party or conservative principles, but what sells — and what sells is anger and resentment.

To compound that irony, the party that stresses the fact that the United States was designed as a republic — governed by representatives but not directly by the people themselves — has itself become thoroughly “small d” democratic, subject to the whims and fears of its base without an intermediary to govern them.

That too is not Obama’s fault.

Reader Comments 0

1726 comments
GarySCox1
GarySCox1

I would argue the demise of the Republican party started under Newt Gingrich as speaker ... in the great take over of the House "Newt-speak" was used to demonize anyone who did not agree with the Republicans ... their base bought this language hook, line and sinker and right wing radio hosts saw the devise language "sells." Cap this with campaigning on issues and lies they could not achieve like repealing the ACA has left their base disillusioned ... from the ashes of disillusionment rises anger and resentment!

Omustgo
Omustgo

BIAS reporting all the time, every where.. Gwinnett is the next county going down the tubes.Overflow from Cobb and Dekalb...

Marcel_Sondi
Marcel_Sondi

An opinion columnist should not be considered "biased reporting". His JOB is to be opinionated, ergo biased. By the way, the AJC also has op-ed writers that probably represent your views too.

M J Kennedy19
M J Kennedy19

I am appalled that the AJC continually leans left and far left only. It is abundantly clear with the obnoxious cartoons that are published on behalf of "Mike (I am a die-hard leftist) Luckovich"who I deem to be an avowed SOCIALIST and his cartoons are always published ABOVE token conservative counterpoints..WHY ?I have been an AJC subscriber (home delivery) for over 33 years and the AJC is failing me because they have CHOSEN not to be fair and balanced...too much to ask for ? Let the paying customers decide for themselves and don't shove the inner city problems down our throats...Is that all there is to bloviate about ??

Here's_to_Blue
Here's_to_Blue

@kennedys And I would submit that Mike Luckovich is overbalanced with the vitriol supplied by editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez.  At least Luckovich's cartoons more often than not have a sense of humor, while Ramirez's are filled with unmitigated hatred.

Zingerking
Zingerking

These are all qualitative issues that you or others can assign any value and interpretation you would like.  I suggest some quantitative analysis to support the hypothesis.  What drives polarizing.  Number of bipartisan bills, frequency of joint interaction, percent of opposing party that supports as president, Percent of his own party that goes against his direction, etc.


DS
DS

Used to be, most people understood that if you want to get your way in a democracy, you have to convince others to agree with you. If you get enough people to agree, then you'll have enough votes to get your way.

Republicans have forgotten this simple concept. They hold a minority view on many issues. They haven't convinced enough people to see things their way, and they don't have the votes for their ideas.

But they have a sense of entitlement that makes them think that they should get their way regardless. That's why they shut down the government. That's why they keep voting to repeal Obamacare even though they don't have the votes.

It's amazing to me to read reports of how so many Republican voters are frustrated that their leaders haven't been able to keep their promises. Of course they can't---they don't have the votes.

M J Kennedy19
M J Kennedy19

@DS  From what I can decipher by your post: FREE STUFF IS GREAT. Well here's my stance...like it or not !! " I am willing to help the helpless but I totally deplore helping the clueless and the lazy"...I grew up in an environment where the FAMILY helped the FAMILY, not the government...a lost concept, why?

Ron Wagner
Ron Wagner

@kennedys @DS Maybe you should spend a little more time worrying about the limits of your deciphering abilities.

garls2662
garls2662

I question my judgement when deciding to subscribe to the publication and this article is more proof of what journalistic garbage really is.  When BHO was elected everybody was going to hold hands and harmonize together, sea levels would no longer rise and everybody would be more than provided for but that hasn't been the case.  Immediately after taking office he runs through his Stimulus package to bail out the banks and his union buddies and never created "shovel ready" jobs. I could go on forever about his failed policies but time and space will prohibit me from doing so.  The GOP has completely shot themselves in the foot because when presented with a golden opportunity to keep BHO in check, they failed miserably because of establishment guys not having the spine or intestinal fortitude to do what they were elected to do:  follow the U.S. constitution.  So continue on JB with being a Democrat Lap Dog and continue to support the current politicians (both sides) who continue to grow the government and take more freedom away from the people that elected them.  The good citizens of Iowa just voted over 60% to 3 candidates that are running on Ronald Reagan conservative values which is what this country needs.  And now we're faced with HC or BS as president?  God help us!!!

goat diddler
goat diddler

@garls2662 "they failed miserably because of"... opinions are like...

Today's GOP "fails miserably" because they stood by for 8 years and screamed "HARDER... FASTER..." while their chosen idiot destroyed everything he touched... They "fail" because they have yet to acknowledge the Dumbya years, much less apologizefor,  or take any lessons from those years... as evidenced by the repeated proposal of demonstrably tried and failed policies.

garls2662
garls2662

@foo2u @garls2662 What is left to acknowledge for regarding the "Dumbya" years????  BHO has been in office for 7 years and has created more calamity than anyone.  Spent more than all previous presidents combined, weakened us in the eyes of our adversaries, showed absolutely no leadership when presented the opportunity, etc., etc.  All of the problems now are solely at his feet and the Democrat Party were full accessories for the entire fiasco.  The GOP leadership has kept their heads completely up the _ss for the entire time he has been in office because they do not want to dare criticize a black president. Incredible.

rimsky
rimsky

Mr. Liberal peaked my curiosity about the top 1%.

What are the probabilities of one those 1% come down to the level of 54%.  Any chance at all.


Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@rimsky 

Yes - it's a decimal point followed by a whole buncha zeros, then a one.

The Doom
The Doom

@rimsky


Oh. I'm certain some do get knocked down quite a peg or 10. The great recession saw many millionaires disappear a year later on tax returns. 


"Speaking of "millionaires and billionaires" (see here), the real tax news is that there are fewer of both these days. This month the IRS released more detailed tax data for 2009, and the nearby table records the decline of the taxpaying rich.


In 2007, 390,000 tax filers reported adjusted gross income of $1 million or more and paid $309 billion in taxes. In 2009, there were only 237,000 such filers, a decline of 39%. Almost four of 10 millionaires vanished in two years, and the total taxes they paid in 2009 declined to $178 billion, a drop of 42%."


http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111903480904576512501087811480


Why would you or anyone be so concerned about making sure 1%ers get knocked back down to the 54% level? Does it make ya feel better or something? Do people like seeing wealthier people get their come uppance? 

Robert1959
Robert1959

Jay,

Know let's be clear...Over the past 7 years of President Obama's administration (2008-15) all Americans have access to healthcare (ACA), the economy steadily improving, deficit going down quicker than expected, unemployment down (5%), real estate market coming back quickly, stocks at all time high (+17,000), gasoline prices at/or below $2.00 per gallon nationwide and no new foreign wars (Syria, Iran etc.). The GOP solutions to this list of accomplishments without their help? GOP scandal investigations...(IRS, DOJ, NSA, ACA, Benghazi, forcing the federal government closure/defaulting on the federal deficit, lawsuits, impeachment nonsense, defunding Planned Parenthood, escalating the War on Women, blocking immigration reform and gun control, etc.) . 
 
The GOP continues their crusade to crucify President Obama and hold the American People as hostages. Any GOP candidate serious about running for the White House in 2016 must represent all the "American People" and apologize for their unethical conduct (hatred, fear and bigotry) if they want to be considered a serious candidate. No workplace in the USA allows that kind of conduct by anyone at anytime. No Apology - No GOP.  
 
The American People...  
(elderly, disabled, young people, women, minorities, LGBT, Christians, Muslims & Jews, etc.)  

breckenridge
breckenridge

Pinko last night Bernie Sanders said foreign policy isn't really his strong suit.  If he wins he'll need some help, you might be called upon to join his foreign policy team.


Do it for your country.

The Doom
The Doom

Let's give em some more schoolin on that BS train of thought about a top 1% permanent superclass. Incomes, like the economy, are dynamic. 


"Some 11% of Americans will join the Top 1% for at least one year during their prime working lives (age 25 to 60), according to research done by Thomas Hirschl, a sociology professor at Cornell University. But only 5.8% will be in it for two years or more."


The IRS looked at how frequently the same Top 400 taxpayers appeared on the list over a 22-year period ending in 2013. Some 72% ranked that high for just one year. Only 3% were listed for a decade or more.


"People feel it's a fixed club and no one else can get in, but that's not the case," said Mark Perry, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Once you get there, it's not easy to stay there."


The same holds true for those lower on the income ladder. While just over half of Americans reach the Top 10% at least once in their careers, only 14% stay in it for a decade or more, Hirschl found. (The minimum income threshold for the Top 10% was $141,000.)


On the flip side, it's not uncommon for Americans to spend some time at the bottom of the heap. Some 54% of Americans will be in or near poverty for at least one year by their 60th birthday, Hirschl said."


http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/07/news/economy/top-1/index.html

The Doom
The Doom

@Donnie_Pinko @Doom Classical liberal


Income mobility is a fact of life. And if people don't have the ability to move up and  live the American dream of prosperity then why, pray tell, are there millions willing to brave a deadly journey to get here? Are they coming here to stay poor? They could have just stayed poor in their native countries, no?

The Doom
The Doom

@Nick_Danger @Doom Classical liberal


Can you not read, sir? I just laid out the empirical data from you taken from IRS studies. You'ld be wrong taking that bet. 


Again. Only 5.8% of the people who make the top 1% will be there for 2 years or more. One more time. What is it that you don't understand about straightforward data gleaned from the IRS in a Cornell study?

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@Doom Classical liberal 

The IRS looked at how frequently the same Top 400 taxpayers appeared on the list over a 22-year period ending in 2013. Some 72% ranked that high for just one year. Only 3% were listed for a decade or more.


"People feel it's a fixed club and no one else can get in, but that's not the case," said Mark Perry, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Once you get there, it's not easy to stay there." 

------------ Someone is seriously using data on turnover of the Top 400 tax payers - the 0.0001% club - to talk about changes in social status???  They could go from the top 400 to the top 250,000 and still be in the top 0.1%  #samplingerror

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

I just remembered!  Doesn't Trump still owe us an amazing surprise that his investigators discovered about the president's birth certificate? 

I bet he's going to release it any day, now! 

Drip, drip, drip!

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Nick_Danger

Wait - there's a question now about whether Mrs. Clinton was born here? Seriously?

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

Posted by no one but you.

Sport.

Just sayin'. 


I suppose your moronic response to the AJC sports column of Braves win 4-2 would be "posted by no one but you".

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@DownInAlbany 

Why do you keep trying to tell people what they can't do?  Are you against freedom, or something?  ;-)

breckenridge
breckenridge

@DownInAlbany 


The Dodd-Frank legislation was a piece of crap that does nothing to prevent another financial institution from going under.

A simple and effective 2-part solution was all that was needed:


1.  A home buyer must put down cash at closing, be it 10% or 15% or 20% of the purchase price.


2.  The lending institution must maintain ownership of part of the loan for the duration of the loan period, be it 10% or 15% or 20%.



So.........why did Congress not go the simple and effective route? Because the lobbyists for the banks/brokerages rolled into town with huge amounts of money to buy off members of congress.

The Doom
The Doom

@DownInAlbany


That's some serious Wall St money lined up on Hillary. 


But, but, but Koch brothers....

breckenridge
breckenridge

TD you are the only American I know of that believes drug companies should charge more for prescription medications here in the US than they do anywhere else in the world.


You constantly whine about welfare for individuals, but you're just fine with corporate welfare.  That seems a bit..........inconsistent.

td1234
td1234

@breckenridge Wrong again. I believe the government should get the heck out of the way of the market. 

breckenridge
breckenridge

@td1234 @breckenridge 


Really? Because just a month ago you were defending the drug companies, saying they need to pay for their R&D.  Now you're completely walking away from that stance.