Obama As Polarizing As Bush

The political polarization we saw during the Bush Presidency has continued throughout the Obama Presidency.

Barack Obama, George W. Bush

Continuing a trend that we’ve seen since the beginning of his Presidency, Gallup notes that the public remains as polarized over President Obama as they were over President George W. Bush:

PRINCETON, NJ — During his fourth year in office, an average of 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans approved of the job Barack Obama did as president. That 76-percentage-point gap ties George W. Bush’s fourth year as the most polarized years in Gallup records.

The list of most polarized years makes it clear that Obama’s highly polarized ratings may be as much a reflection of the era in which he is governing as on Obama himself. The last nine presidential years — the final five for Bush and Obama’s first four — all rank in the top 10. Thus, it appears that highly polarized ratings are becoming the norm, as Americans aligned with both parties are apparently not looking much beyond the president’s party affiliation to evaluate the job he is doing.

Obama’s record polarization last year also is owing to the electoral cycle. For most elected presidents, their fourth year in office — the year all sought re-election — was the most polarized year of their presidency. The election year likely causes Americans to view the president in more partisan terms, given his involvement in campaigning that year as well as the presence of an active opponent from the other party who is trying to defeat him. The lone exception to the pattern is Dwight Eisenhower, whose sixth year in office was his most polarized.

Here’s a chart showing the most polarizing Presidential years based on Gallup’s polling:

Gallup Polarizing 1

 

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that President Obama and his immediate predecessor show up exclusively on this list. Thanks to the Iraq War, the economic downturn, the continuing weak economy, the rise of the Tea Party, and a Republican Party that has become far more aggressive in its opposition to the President’s agenda than we’ve seen in the past, both of these men have presided over some of the most politically contentious periods in recent history. Factor into this the rise of a much more partisan media market, both on cable and online, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for the kind of political culture where partisans are motivated to reflexively hate the other side. Sure, there are exceptions to this but they can mostly be found outside of Washington with people like Chris Christie in New Jersey, who has consistent polled well with both Republicans and Democrats. The same can be said about Hillary Clinton during the time she was Secretary of State, although I anticipate that this will change as she reenters the world of domestic politics, and especially if she runs for President in 2016. In our current environment, once you’re at the top of the heap you’re the person that your political adversaries begin to focus their political hatred on. Absent some massive shift in our political culture, I don’t see it changing any time soon.

Indeed, it just seems to be getting worse, as this look at President’s going all the way back to Eisenhower demonstrates:

Gallup Polarizing 2

 

Our three most recent Presidents, of course, have proven to be the most polarizing, although President Reagan wasn’t too far behind Nixon. In any case, though, none of their predecessors have had as large a partisan gap as George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Heck, even Richard Nixon managed to maintain support from as much as 1/3 of self-identified Democrats during his time in office and Jimmy Carter had an average of 30% of Republicans that approved of his job performance. Those days are, quite obviously, long gone. No matter who wins the Presidency in 2016, that person is going to face a mountain of opposition from the opposite side. If Hillary Clinton becomes President, she’s likely to lose much of the good will with Republicans she has built up over the past four years or so and we’re likely to see a return to the polarization of the Clinton Era, only this time on steroids. There doesn’t seem to be a solution to this problem, and it doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Politics became a sport with the rise in particular of Fox News. People who know absolutely nothing about politics are nevertheless whipped into idiot frenzies by Ailes’s sociopaths. Not that the liberal side doesn’t have it’s own morons, they just aren’t quite so loudly and aggressively stupid, and they lack the poisonous racism that undergirds the modern Republican party.

  2. Katharsis says:

    Political scientists have been calling this “self sorting” instead of increased partisanship. Mann & Ornstein blame Gingrich and Norquist. Generational typologists such as Winograd and Hais blame Vietnam and Nixon, but have hope for the ascendant generation.

    I personally think that people would rather not talk about politics as if they could be free of it. Non-political-junkies get involved during the Presidential election, then they expect politics to go back in the closet for four years. People don’t like all the fighting, but as Steven Taylor has been writing: our system is flawed. It is an adversarial system, like our legal system, and doesn’t place trust in anything except the winners competition. And the questions about our way of life have gotten more abstract with most of the low hanging answers already plucked.

    We can agree that racism is bad, but we can’t agree on what is racism.
    We can agree that slavery is bad, but we can’t agree on what is the value of work.
    We can agree that we should work together, but we can’t agree on what we should work on.

  3. dazedandconfused says:

    Anybody remember Sullivans “Goodbye to all that.”? A fanciful dream, but a not entirely idiotic notion that the growing support for Obama in 2008 was a due to a public feeling that not bringing the Clintons back might help to abate Republican blind rage. What Sullivan didn’t understand is that the rage against the Clintons wasn’t about the Clintons, it stems from a deep feeling of entitlement to power.

    Had he understood that, I doubt he would have supported a black man who was also very inexperienced, regardless of how intelligent or eloquent he might be. There is a deep sense of entitlement to power in many whites. It was still too soon for that. Maybe way too soon.

  4. Jack says:

    @Michael
    I think you need to take a little closer look in the mirror. You are as full of venom and are blinded by bias as anyone at the edges. Just look at your posts. Replace your name and word s like conservative, Republican, etc with the opposite side words and see how it reads. Yes, yes I know you think you are different because you “think” you are right. The polls show both sides being partisans pretty much equally. So don’t act like one side is doing it more than the other.

  5. I would love to meet some of these 88% of Republicans that approve of Eisenhower.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    Well, both sides do it,’ right? Yet clearly, one side does it to greater effect and with greater intensity than the other, and it’s not difficult to ascertain which party that is. We know which party is most responsible for the polarized cesspool that has characterized for the last 20 years of our national politics – the Republican Party.

    Can there be any doubt? One party spent nearly 6 years investigating a president and finally impeached him because they could. One party has spent the better part of 3 years in setting up 40 attempts to repeal a constitutional piece of legislation that has already benefitted millions of Americans. One party leveraged a routine fiscal action into an intentional downgrade of American Bonds. We know which party that is.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    Baloney.

    I was born in the Eisenhower administration, so that’s a bunch of presidents. Not until 2008 had I ever witnessed the losing party actually wishing the newly elected President would fail. Never have I seen the very right of the president to run for office questioned and not just questioned but pursued obsessively.

    When George W. Bush was elected by the Supreme Court I was upset. But I never wished he would fail. I never questioned his loyalty to this country. I never accused him of being un-American, a foreign agent, an enemy.

    The way the GOP has treated this president has been despicable. You didn’t set out to oppose this president’s agenda, you preached hatred and actively hoped to destroy him, whatever the cost. It has been unpatriotic. Dishonest and racist. And you sir, are full of sh!t.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Bush was incompetent. 9.11, torture, outed spy’s, on and on.
    Obama is black.

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: Politics became a sport with the rise in particular of Fox News.

    Yes, DAMN those conservatives for actually putting up an alternative to the uniformly leftist media of the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, the LA Times, AP, and all the rest. Life was so much simpler when the liberals could count on only a few, isolated conservative voices.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Doh…I forgot Iraq.
    And a 9% contraction of GDP in a single quarter.
    Silly me.

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Oh, Cliffy. Obama’s incompetent, outed a lot more people than a CIA desk agent who pushed her hubby for a job he lied about.

    And he’s half-black. I like to think that his black side is the occasionally-competent one, and it’s his white side that makes him so inept.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And he’s half-black. I like to think that his black side is the occasionally-competent one, and it’s his white side that makes him so inept.

    Why are Republicans obsessed with race?

  13. dazedandconfused says:

    If he had the right letter behind his name they would love him. Adopted the Heritage Foundation’s health-care alternative to Hillarycare, expanded the war in Afghanistan, splashed Bin Laden, hammered suspected terrorists with drone strikes, saved the Wall Street robber barons and effectively gave amnesty not only to them, but to the Bush administrations torturers too. Pissed off the far left….

    They could hardly hope for much more.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    Obama cut the taxes of 95% of the nation…and the Tea Stain complained.
    On healthcare: Keep the Government out of my Medicare.
    Clearly their ODS is well-grounded in reality.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Obama is black.

    Bush was incompetent. 9.11, torture, outed spy’s, on and on.

    Are you suggesting that if Bush was Black that 2001 to 2008 things would have been different?

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Meanwhile, under Obama we have the smallest workforce since the 70’s, an economy that created 848,000 new jobs this year with 96% being part-time, and STILL have an unemployment rate over 7%.

    You cite a spike. I cite trends.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    Dazed is spot-on…if Obama was a Repulicanist Jenos would be rubbing one out daily over him.
    Poor Jenos…all that un-requited man-boy love.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    Jenos you only show your ignorance when you type.
    The worst economic crisis since the depression is a spike???
    Fool

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Are you suggesting that if Bush was Black that 2001 to 2008 things would have been different?

    Well, for one, it would have hurt Obama’s chances of being elected, since he wouldn’t be “the first black president.” For another, it would have fulfilled my prediction that the first black president would be a Republican.

    On the other hand, it would have caused some really interesting discussions in the Bush family, especially between George Senior and Barbara…

  20. steve s says:

    Can there be any doubt? One party spent nearly 6 years investigating a president and finally impeached him because they could.

    What are the odds they’ll try to impeach Obama over something? I think it’s fairly high.

  21. gVOR08 says:

    No matter who wins the Presidency in 2016, that person is going to face a mountain of opposition from the opposite side.

    So close, but still a ‘both sides do it’. Or are you assuming a Dem will win even if it’s not Hillary.

  22. steve s says:

    I see two scenarios, easy:

    Congress votes no, obama strikes anyway, they impeach.

    Congress votes yes, Obama strikes, something goes wrong and some soldiers get killed, they impeach.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: I’m afraid I must disagree. If Obama had nuked Iran, depopulated Afghanistan, and converted all Iraqis to Baptist; if he had eliminated the income tax for the 1%, eliminated the Departments of Commerce, Education, and whatever the third one was, and transferred the SS trust fund to DOD; he’d still be black, and GOPs would just manage to tolerate him.

    Sorry @Jack: but that’s the way it is.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    There’s nothing conservative about Fox. Rabid, frothing at the mouth dishonesty from people like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity is not conservative.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    You people are arsonists who having set the house on fire hang around to critique the firemen.

    YOUR recession. YOUR wars. OUR guy trying to clean up the mess you people made. That’s the last five years. And your contribution to solving the problems? Pictures of Obama as a witch doctor with a bone in his nose. Demands for super secret birth certificates. And now frantic efforts to disenfranchise minority and youth voters.

  26. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: Blow it out your ass, sociopath. You have your little hateful stereotypes, and you just have to force anyone who disagrees with you into them.

    How’d you like it if I held you responsible for all the frothing idiots at Democratic Underground and TruthOut?

    Sorry, you’d probably take it as a compliment.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Yes, DAMN those conservatives for actually putting up an alternative to the uniformly leftist media of the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, the LA Times, AP, and all the rest. Life was so much simpler when the liberals could count on only a few, isolated conservative voices.

    The Conservative Victimhood Tour continues…it is amazing that any Republican can get elected to anything, considering the vast array of forces opposed to the GOP…

    Obama…outed a lot more people than a CIA desk agent…

    And who are all of these allegedly “outed” people…

    Meanwhile, under Obama we have the smallest workforce since the 70′s, an economy that created 848,000 new jobs this year with 96% being part-time, and STILL have an unemployment rate over 7%.

    Yes of course…because nothing that happened before he was first elected president has anything to do with all of that, nor does the complete GOP opposition to anything he wants to do…meanwhile, alternative ideas pitched by his opposition would just do so very much to make the economy better…add delusions to the victimization so many conservatives feel…

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    How’d you like it if I held you responsible for all the frothing idiots at Democratic Underground and TruthOut?

    I have literally no idea who those people are. None. Never heard of them. Now, find me a Republican who doesn’t know exactly who Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage or Fox News are.

    We are not you. We are not anything like you.

    You want to know how I felt about George W. Bush? When he went to Congress after 9-11 I had tears running down my face, because that was my president, speaking for my country, vowing to stop my enemies. I would have signed over my house to him. I would have paid 50% taxes.

    You people? You never for an instant saw past skin color. Not for a microsecond.

    We are not you.

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Meanwhile, under Obama we have the smallest workforce since the 70′s, an economy that created 848,000 new jobs this year with 96% being part-time, and STILL have an unemployment rate over 7%.
    You cite a spike. I cite trends.

    Of course, if one ignored the precipitous crash of the financial and housing markets in 2008, one would expect that the economy would be back to “normal.” As you know, the greatest economic failure since the Great Depression occurred before Obama was inaugurated, and prior to said inauguration the economy was shedding jobs at a rate of over 700,000 per month.

    You cite so-called facts in the absence of context, I cite reality-based information that is easily obtained, yet often ignored by about half the American public (guess which half has a problem understanding that the 2008 crash vaporized nearly $18 trillion in the wealth and assets of Americans?)

  30. Kari Q says:

    I think the construction of the headline is questionable. Obama isn’t a “polarizing president” so much as he is president during a time of polarization. Quite a different thing, actually.

  31. Kari Q says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I have a long-standing prediction that the first female president will be a conservative Republican, a sort of American Margaret Thatcher. Since there was no way the Democrats were going to lose in 2008, Hillary had me quite worried.

  32. Augggh. The unrecognized irony in this comment thread is giving me a migraine!

  33. @michael reynolds: I’ll go one step further.

    The GOP has made it their legacy to fight everything, regardless of how settled it is. If there’s one thing that they are good at, it’s re-fighting wars that have well been decided, in hopes of turning the tide. They’ve been fighting Roe v. Wade for 40 years. They actually won on the Voting Rights Act, and I think would love to take a slab out of the Civil Rights Act if they could. They are perpetually in a fight to return America’s financial norms to those of 1981, and their social norms to those of 1947.

    That’s what scares me about when Obama’s out of office. I have surely not approved of the job the President has done, but the fight over his legacy will not be solved once he’s out of office. Let’s say that, worst come to worst, the Republican Party takes over the White House and the Senate. Boom; there goes Obamacare. There goes a farther rightward swing of the Supreme Court (I think Scalia would retire on Jan. 20th). In short, the Republican Party, before adhering to anything having to do with actual governing, would go through doing literally nothing but destroying anything Barack Obama accomplished since 2009. It would have nothing to do with improving the country or fixing anything. The whole, singular intent would be destroying the legacy of Barack Obama and, in their eyes, turning him into a historical footnote.

    The problem – the real problem – is that I think this will happen no matter what; weather it’s 2016 or 2056. They’re fighting fifty year old battles as it is, don’t think for a second they won’t use “Obamacare” as a smoke screen until they finally win enough seats to make it go away.

  34. MarkedMan says:

    Personally, I think it goes back to Gingrich. His strategy as Speaker of the House was literally 50% + 1 vote. If he had something that say, 70% of the House agreed to, he would add things that would piss off the Democrats until he had the 50% + 1 vote necessary to just pass. For the first time, and since then, the position of the Republican party was that cooperation and consensus was actually undesirable, and just showed weakness and wasted opportunity.

  35. Steve V says:

    Republicans spent the entire Clinton presidency crying that Clinton — the guy who passed welfare reform and spent half his time establishing his cred with conservatives by pissing off liberals — was a communist. They spent the next eight years crying that anyone who opposed invading Iraq (and Iran!) was a terrorist hugger. Then they started crying that Obama was a communist, before he was even inaugurated. I realize that both sides criticize the oppositing party, all things are not equal here.

  36. MarkedMan says:

    Add to it all that several Republican senior leaders have stated publicly, when asked what their number one priority was, have replied with versions of “make the Democrats lose, make the Republicans win”. In other words, given political power they were willing to state publicly that they were putting the interests of their party over the interests of the country.

  37. stonetools says:

    Its not such that polarization has increased-the US has always been polarized. Rather, its that the polarized have been SORTED-a process that began in the 60s and was completed in 2008. ( I has a longer post, but the Internet ate it. But that’s the nub)

  38. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: half black/half white. half witted too.
    and he was put in office by whites, not that huge 13% of the vote that always votes for the democrat that runs.
    maybe if he upheld his campaign promises he’d get a few more % points? maybe not, but really- you need a new deck of race cards. republicans would have easily voted for condoleezza rice if she ran- and she’s not half black.

  39. Matt Bernius says:

    The more research I do on the history of the American Press, the less I find our position in history unique. There have been period of equivalent rancor in popular American politics — the term tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a (railroad) rail (or rather tie) was a very real thing that often happened to editors of local party papers.

    I suspect our current environment is very much tied to emergent media forms of the last few decades — in particular enhanced, rapid polling and national talk radio. The two together allow for two important effects — first, reducing most issues to binary questions (for/against) and allowing people to feel less isolated (the web enhanced talk radio, but make no mistake, it was talk radio that started that connection).

    Combined with the Republican/Democratic party structure, the two helped further turn political observation into a spectator sport (increasing the level of stats and easily allowing people to nationally talk about (or listen to talk about) their teams).

  40. Pinky says:

    I knew this thread would be a funny read. Congrats to stonetools and Matt Bernius for their reasonable responses. The rest of you, as expected. Actually, worse than expected. I was hoping for a little self-assessment. Oh well.

  41. Pinky says:

    @Matt Bernius: Very closely tied to all this is the return of conspiracy thinking. It has a very rich tradition in populism, and although it became less acceptable in polite company in the 20th century, it’s back as bad as it ever was. When you commit to a conspiracy-theory approach, you cut yourself off from the possibility of refutation.

  42. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    The rest of you, as expected. Actually, worse than expected. I was hoping for a little self-assessment. Oh well.

    Okay, let me conduct a self-assessment of my remarks:

    al-Ameda: Can there be any doubt? One party spent nearly 6 years investigating a president and finally impeached him because they could. One party has spent the better part of 3 years in setting up 40 attempts to repeal a constitutional piece of legislation that has already benefitted millions of Americans. One party leveraged a routine fiscal action into an intentional downgrade of American Bonds. We know which party that is.

    If anything I was too indirect, but the point of my remarks were exactly right.

  43. Matt Bernius says:

    @Pinky:

    Very closely tied to all this is the return of conspiracy thinking. It has a very rich tradition in populism, and although it became less acceptable in polite company in the 20th century, it’s back as bad as it ever was. When you commit to a conspiracy-theory approach, you cut yourself off from the possibility of refutation.

    Hmmm… can you unpack this a bit more? I’m not prepared to agree or disagree without a few more dots connected.

    Unless by conspiracy thinking, you mean that the opposite side is the “enemy” and “out to get us.” If that’s the case then I totally agree. But I don’t necessarily see that as conspiracy thinking and much as long standing in/out group thinking, created by the need to create difference and a belief that “power” or “control” are limited resources.

    This becomes especially important when you apply it to @Katharsis point.

    Additionally, what is fueling all of this is also a radical (but not necessarily unpredictable) reorganization of the country and a redistribution of post-industrial prosperity. Fans of the writings of Adam Smith, Marx and Weber see many of their predictions and theories coming to fruition in the wake of the “great recession.” The feeling that the American post WWII Social Contract (versus Dream) is failing/has failed has also led to a broader sense of existential dread that is pushing us apart rather than bringing us together.

    (As an aside, I personally think it’s impossible to understand the forces that led to the populist Tea Party movement without reading “Wealth of Nations”, “Capital”, and “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”)

  44. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    How’d you like it if I held you responsible for all the frothing idiots at Democratic Underground and TruthOut?

    How would you like it if I held you responsible for all the idiots in the House Republican Delegations (that is to say the entire Republican House Delegation)?

    “Democratic Underground”? Heard of them, never hit their website though.
    “TruthOut”? Never even heard of them.

    By the way, in the model of the Republican Party, have any Democratic Party oriented political advocacy groups/organizations – like “TruthOut” or “Democratic Underground” – ever hijacked the Democratic Party and elected a hundred or so greaseballs to Congress?

  45. rudderpedals says:

    @Matt Bernius: Your analysis is welcome and I think spot on. The fine article cuts modern presidents too short. I wonder what polarization would look like if this chart tracked Hoover and FDR. The fractured polity and domestic issues FDR tackled are practically identical to the fractured polity and problems Obama attempted to solve.

  46. Pinky says:

    @Matt Bernius: You find conspiracy theories among like-minded packs. The Jews are poisoning the well; the Freemasons are taking over the world; the Jews are…well, insert most anything that’s ever been said about the Jews. They’re not exclusive to American politics, but they tend to be more destructive in any society in which the masses have a say. So we have the Know-Nothings and anti-Catholics and KKK and many other groups who blamed hidden others for the things that go wrong. I think we tended to pull out of that kind of thinking during the past 100 years. The Birchers were marginalized and we had a real conspiracy to deal with, international communism, and maybe that gave a pressure release to the part of the mind that craves such things.

    Three things happened within a ten year span. Oliver Stone gave voice and credibility to a crazy fringe obsessed with JFK’s assassination. Bush won an election while losing the majority vote. 9/11. Since then the stupidest part of populist instinct, the conspiracy theory, has returned to American politics in a way that I thought it wouldn’t.

    I see this as important because conspiracy theories are non-falsifiable. Rational political discourse requires the listener to get into the mind of the speaker, which can’t be done unless the listener believes in the speaker’s good faith. You can compromise with different, but you can’t compromise with a liar. When you develop the mental habit of distrusting the other person, you gradually become incapable of accepting anything he says. If I say the sky is blue, and you think I’m a racist, you’re going to withhold judgment on the sky’s color. If you think I hate America, and I say something about fundamentally transforming the country, you’re going to think that I just tipped my hand rather than spouted a banality.

    I guess I’m saying that both conspiracy theories and polarized politics share similar traits of diseased thinking. I’m not speculating on cause and effect, but the parallel is too strong to ignore.

  47. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: Note – I realize in what I wrote I made a jump that might not be too clear. The classic conspiracy theory has a small, covert group controlling things behind the scenes. The closed-minded political thinker sees half the country as his enemy. The connection is that the nutty Democrat thinks that a small group of rich people and Diebold owners are leading the Republican sheep, and the nutty Republican thinks that a small group of academics and former terrorists are leading the Democratic sheep. It’s the same kind of thinking, be it nutty left, nutty right, or nutty non-political.

  48. SenyorDave says:

    But both sides do it!

    To compare the Republicans and Democrats, at least on a national scale, is ludicrous. Large segments of the Republican House simply do not accept Obama as a legitimate president. There is no inside voice, as best exemplified here:

    Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, a freshman Republican from Michigan, has a legislative dream — to put in motion the impeachment of President Barack Obama.“If I could write that bill and submit it, it would be a dream come true,” he said this month.

    He later admitted that there is nothing to impeach Obama on, but with some of the Republicans that doesn’t matter. I certainly know in my time as an adult no party has ever shown such abject hatred of a president, and that includes Nixon.

    IMO, almost every major decision Bush made was wrong – he created a structural deficit (that is beyond argument), Iraq was the worst foreign policy decision in modern times, and his administration had a high level of under-reported dishonesty (look up Richard Foster and Monica Goodling for two good examples). But he actually made decisions that caused me to loathe his presidency (plus he had Dick Cheney, the man who really deserves hatred and should be rotting in a cell at The Hague).

    To comapre the impact of web sites such as Democratic Underground and Truthout (???) with Fox News and the WSJ editorial page is ridiculous.

    The way I see it the best measure of how far right the GOP has become is that no Republican member of Congress went to the MLK anniversary. That says it all.

  49. al-Ameda says:

    @SenyorDave:

    IMO, almost every major decision Bush made was wrong – he created a structural deficit (that is beyond argument), Iraq was the worst foreign policy decision in modern times, and his administration had a high level of under-reported dishonesty (look up Richard Foster and Monica Goodling for two good examples). But he actually made decisions that caused me to loathe his presidency (plus he had Dick Cheney, the man who really deserves hatred and should be rotting in a cell at The Hague).

    And, to put this view in perspective, there was NEVER any serious consideration among Democrats of impeaching President Bush.

    I have to admit, I’m somewhat surprised that the Republican House hasn’t drafted Articles of Impeachment – they have the votes, and really, they do not need a legitimate reason. They could impeach right now, but the Senate is another matter. If the Senate goes Republican in 2014 it would not surprise me in the least if Republicans went ahead and did it.

  50. Matt Bernius says:

    @Pinky:
    Interesting points about the rise of conspiracy thinking. I need to think about it a bit more.

    I would make one addition to your idea — and in doing so tie it back to what I wrote earlier. If there was a mainstreaming of conspiracy thinking, it was largely because it was able to commercialized by national talk radio.

    Right Wing and Fringe Talk Radio Hosts did a lot of work to shift radio from being about Morning Zoo on-air freak shows to being a place for people to reveal the truth behind the truth. Driving today and listening to Right Wing Talk Radio, both Rush Limbaugh and later Hannity were talking about the long term plans of the Obama Administration to destroy the United States. And both shows advertised various books and other media texts that would reveal the “truth behind the truth.”

    Granted, selling conspiracies has gone far beyond just Right Wing Media, but it still serves as a great example of how whole industries have been built upon what you were discussing.

  51. Pinky says:

    @Matt Bernius: There’s some of that, I think. But the timing doesn’t quite work. For one thing, out-there talk radio predates right wing talk radio substantially. Art Bell started in the 70’s. Talk radio used to be local markets dominated by cranks. And Limbaugh hit the New York market back when Obama was in law school, so I don’t think you can hold him responsible for the recent change in tone. And your theory woudn’t explain why the tone has become so bad on both sides. If you’re looking for a big change to our culture, though, consider the thing we’re communicating through.

    Edited to add – The “zoo crew” was always more of an FM phenomenon, and I think it’s still around today – although the really raunchy stuff has moved off the FCC’s domain to satellite. FM has become less influential because of the weakness in the music scene, I think, but that’s another story.

  52. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: I’m glad you at least recognize that the thing you were predicting hasn’t happened. There’s another thing that many on the left were predicting, that would have also led to a President Biden, and thank God that hasn’t happened either. On the flip side, there are always the predictions that a president will refuse to leave office – I remember them about Clinton, and about Bush, and they were wrong. I’ve never seen anyone who predicted such things apologize. But that’s the kind of irrationality that I’m talking about with conspiracy thinking: if Clinton or Bush didn’t declare themselves “president-for-life”, it was only because they figured they couldn’t get away with it, right?. The facts don’t require a reappraisal of the original position.

  53. Jack says:

    Rant on Michael, rant on. You supported GWB and supported his policies. Right!! Liberals didn’t attack Reagan, Bushs, or any other Republican. Right!!! You are not full of venom and don’t preach hatred toward Republicans. Right!!. You are what they call delusional.

  54. An Interested Party says:

    The rest of you, as expected. Actually, worse than expected. I was hoping for a little self-assessment. Oh well.

    Perhaps you could step down off your high horse and explain that a bit more…it is conservative victimhood to talk about the alleged liberal media conspiracy…and it is completely ridiculous to blame the bad economy on the president, considering all the damage that occurred before he was even elected…

  55. Steve V says:

    I was on the young side when Reagan was in office, but I basically remember his opposition as consisting of Robbie Conal and some rock bands. By the time Clinton was in office, Fox News was giving legitimacy to claims about Clinton being a rapist, a murderer and a drug runner. The opposition investigated Reagan for Iran Contra — who wouldn’t have wanted to investigate that? — and the right responded when they were out of the presidency by spending tens of millions of dollars investigating Whitewater, which never panned out but dominated talk radio for years. I listened regularly to right-wing talk radio back then and they were saying Clinton was a mobster and whatever else. Right wing talk radio is a red-meat creating industry that mainlines into the base like nothing on the left.

    I’m tempted to assume that both sides do it equally, because that’s common sense and true up to a point (because both side have people who do it), but it there just isn’t the same fervor on the left for the really divisive stuff. Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan have no real constituency (Sheehan was exalted for five minutes then dropped by everyone except the DU crowd when she pushed it too far). I’m happy to be corrected, but I don’t remember defunding the Iraq war to ever have been seriously on the table, and we all remember that Nancy Pelosi preemptively cut off any talk on the left of impeaching Bush. Now, defunding Obamacare is probably fundraising manna to the vast majority of Republican politicians and it’s becoming obligatory to say you’d go along with impeaching Obama. They aren’t flipsides of the same coin. Limbaugh’s been harping for months if not years that going along with Obama on *anything* is an abandonment of conservative principles (because Obama’s such an America-hating communist, natch). Levin is crying that the constitution will be destroyed if Republicans go along with Obama. These guys aren’t on the fringe, they represent the conservative base which is a substantial portion of GOP support and cannot be crossed. Meanwhile we heard all through Obama’s first term how much he wanted to strike a “grand bargain” on entitlements.

  56. Matt Bernius says:

    @Pinky:

    There’s some of that, I think. But the timing doesn’t quite work. For one thing, out-there talk radio predates right wing talk radio substantially. Art Bell started in the 70′s. Talk radio used to be local markets dominated by cranks. And Limbaugh hit the New York market back when Obama was in law school, so I don’t think you can hold him responsible for the recent change in tone.

    I specifically noted Fringe talk radio to include Bell, as I think Coast-to-Coast is important (as its cut following went mainstream with the X-Files — which I think is far more important in this story than Stone and JKF).

    But your account is missing the fact that the rise of conspiracies happens around the same time as national syndication. And I think it’s critical to note that both Rush and Stern went national about the same time and both ushered in the age of national shows. And it’s important to note that Rush truely came into his own during the Clinton Administration and almost from the beginning and right up to today, he’ll happily invoke Whitewater and the Spirit of Vince Foster.

    The Clintons helped feed this too (“Vast right wing conspiracy” anyone)?

    Yes, local hosts (like Bob Grant in the NY Area of the 1970’s and 80’s or Father Flannigan well before anyone) had stirred up local conspiracies. But the national syndication became a powerful tool for letting isolated communities project themselves and their conspiracies across the entire nation.

    As an aside, I think that’s why it’s worth including Howard Stern here as his radio program (and it’s ilk) did a lot of mainstream a lot of fetishes and porn.

    Discourse is a powerful thing. And people still undervalue the power of talk radio.

  57. Matt Bernius says:

    @Pinky:
    Though when it comes to the seeds of conspiracy theories, beyond JFK, it seems to me like Watergate and Iran-Contra both probably were critical to helping the resurgence.

    Like I said, I need to think about your points more. Thanks for the conversations.

  58. Steve V says:

    Anyone see Norman Podhoretz’s piece in the WSJ? Talk about conspiracy theories. But hey, DU and Truthout!

  59. Pinky says:

    @Steve V:

    and it’s becoming obligatory to say you’d go along with impeaching Obama

    I have never heard this said. Please cite examples. Even the case someone mentioned earlier was from a congressman who was saying that he wouldn’t impeach the President.

  60. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    @al-Ameda: I’m glad you at least recognize that the thing you were predicting hasn’t happened.

    and I’m glad you at least misconstrued what I actually said. I wasn’t predicting that Republicans would impeach Obama, I did however say that I was surprised that House Republicans have not drafted articles of impeachment – there is a difference between a surprise and a prediction.

  61. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: To follow up: I can find references to two statements made by congressmen discussing impeachment, neither of whom recommended it. And there’s something from LaRouche’s people. This is exactly the kind of lie that makes it around the internet before the truth puts its boots on.

  62. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: So that’s what you’re giving me – the tremendous gulf between “I’m surprised that there haven’t been articles of impeachment written” and “I predicted that there would be an impeachment”? I guess that “I expected that there would be impeachment proceedings” would convey a third, completely different meaning? Look, if you don’t want to admit to your recent candor that your model of how Republicans think isn’t matching the real world actions of Republicans, that’s fine. The important thing is that you’re thinking.

  63. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    Look, if you don’t want to admit to your recent candor that your model of how Republicans think isn’t matching the real world actions of Republicans, that’s fine. The important thing is that you’re thinking.

    Actually, the “real world actions of Republicans” are, by and large, matching my perceptions of what Republicans think.

    Just consider these two action items alone: (1) Republicans have tried 40 times to repeal ACA, an act that is already benefitting millions of Americans, and (2) Republicans leveraged a routine fiscal action into intentionally causing a downgrade of American debt securities. So, in that context – the context of current Republican thinking that leads to actions like that – it is kind of surprising that Darrell Issa and other similar-minded malevolents have somehow not yet drafted articles of impeachment, isn’t it?

  64. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Now you’re back to the nonsense. As I’ve noted before, a lot of the “40” votes were actual amendments to the legislation, not symbolic votes. And what’s wrong with symbolic votes anyway? As for the downgrade of the US debt rating, it wasn’t so much about the debt limit crisis as about the lack of substantial resolution of the underlying issues behind the crisis, which is to say the budget deficit.

  65. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Politics became a sport with the rise in particular of Fox News.

    While I agree that Fox News is particularly odious, I remember politics being a sport long before that. Now if you’re arguing that the GOP have taken it to new levels for the US, no debate from me.

  66. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    As for the downgrade of the US debt rating, it wasn’t so much about the debt limit crisis as about the lack of substantial resolution of the underlying issues behind the crisis, which is to say the budget deficit.

    In other words – it was fine for the GOP to leverage the Debt Limit “crisis” into a downgrade of American debt securities.

    Many in the GOP consider this to be a game, it’s not. Institutional investors, individual investors and other nations have trillions of dollars in American debt securities and GOP petulance and irresponsibility caused a short term loss in the value of those holdings.

  67. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: And you’re the one who accused me of bad paraphrasing! I said pretty much the exact opposite: the downgrade was caused by the structural deficit, not the debt limit celling crisis. As for the many in the GOP who consider this a game, please identify some of them. Maybe they’re the same people that Steve hears calling for the President’s impeachment.

  68. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    I said pretty much the exact opposite: the downgrade was caused by the structural deficit, not the debt limit celling crisis. As for the many in the GOP who consider this a game, please identify some of them.

    Structural? In the absence of GOP gamesmanship, the downgrade would not have occurred.

    Are you saying that the GOP did not know or understand that their gaming of the Debt Limit Ceiling “crisis” could lead them to the point where they would have to choose between being responsible and causing a downgrade in the credit rating of American debt securities?

    I suppose that people who prefer irresponsible governance would say that this was justifiable given the goal of the Republican party, however most intelligent people would see the actual result of Republican actions at that time to be political malpractice and highly irresponsible.

  69. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda:

    In the absence of GOP gamesmanship, the downgrade would not have occurred.

    That’s not true. I guess you could argue that they shined a light on a problem without resolving it, but the problem is the total US debt, not the argument over raising it. I mean, if the markets didn’t like the Republicans not raising the debt limit, then the debt would have been upgraded once the debt limit was raised, right? If memory serves, the actual downgrading took place after the debt limit was raised.

  70. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: Yup. Just double-checked. The compromise deal was announced on July 31 2011, the Budget Control Act was signed on August 2, and the US credit rating was lowered on August 5. It’s hard to argue that the lack of a deal caused the downgrade.

  71. Pinky says:

    “The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics. More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011. Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.”

  72. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    The compromise deal was announced on July 31 2011, the Budget Control Act was signed on August 2, and the US credit rating was lowered on August 5. It’s hard to argue that the lack of a deal caused the downgrade.

    Actually, it is not hard at all. The bond rating agencies took a look at the political environment and realized that the Republican Party was willing to not fund expense obligations of the federal government, including debt service, and determined that lowering the rating was warranted.

    We absolutely have the capacity to meet all our federal debt service requirements – that is unless one political party, the Republican Party, decides to not fund those debt service expenses.