So I saw this Tweet over the weekend:
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) February 7, 2015
… and I really didn’t need to follow the link.
Of course it’s not entirely his fault. Just as it wasn’t entirely George W. Bush’s fault that he was the most polarizing president before Obama was.
Basically, we’re on a downward trajectory in terms of unreasoning partisan polarization that first started showing up in the early ’80s (a spate of unusually negative ads across the country in the ’82 campaign, the rise of Lee Atwater), and really blossomed with the election of Bill Clinton 10 years later — the first sign, for me, was the “Don’t Blame Me; I voted Republican” bumper stickers that showed up after Election Day 1992 and before Clinton even took office.
From the start, from before the start, Republicans abandoned the “loyal opposition” stance and treated Clinton as illegitimate.
Things got worse all through the Clinton years. They got nastier through the Bush years (and were nasty, again, from the start, with a brief hiatus right after 9/11). And as Obama took office, they just kept getting nastier.
Which to meet argues that it’s something about the rest of the country and our dysfunctional politics, and the president is just an incidental target of the vitriol.
If present trends continue — which they will, barring some horrific event that pulls us back together as a country, or some other cause for a drastic change in our political attitudes — then the next president, regardless of who it is, will be the “most polarizing in history.”
I hope I’m wrong about that, but I doubt it.