[Posted by Karl]
This month’s Pew poll, finding that Pres. Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past 40 years, is really bothering the Left. So much so that weeks later, Ronald Brownstein is following in the footsteps of The Root’s Terence Samuel and Excitable Andy Sullivan in trying to debunk it.
Their common argument is that the number of self-identifying Republicans has shrunk, so that Independents should be the true measure of how polarizing Obama is. The problem with this argument is that Obama’s support among Independents dropped 10% last month, while their disapproval doubled, from 14% to 28%. Sullivan is acutely moronic on this point, as he actually posted a Pollster.com graph of polls showing that Independent disapproval has increased from about 10% on Inauguration Day to 30% today.
But the funniest part of Brownstein’s analysis is his attempt to equate Pres. Obama with former Pres. Bush:
Bush wasn’t a uniquely polarizing figure at the dawn of his presidency. But after receiving that relatively broad opening from the public in his first months, Bush over the next seven plus years proceeded to govern in a manner that solidified his support within the Republican coalition, but fiercely antagonized Democrats and increasingly alienated independents. (Emphasis added.)
Pres. Bush — so often called “selected, not elected” by Leftists deluded into thinking that Al Gore won Florida — was not a uniquely polarizing figure at the dawn of his presidency, Ron? Let’s set the Wayback Machine for November 2000:
For years, political scientists have been writing about the decline of partisanship, as a more educated and affluent electorate slips the surly bonds of party loyalty, yada, yada. Here’s a news flash: As they say in Brooklyn, fuhgeddaboutit.
This was a deeply partisan election that stirred great emotions (particularly on the GOP side) and inspired great party loyalty in both camps. More than nine in 10 Republicans voted for George W. Bush, according to a Los Angeles Times national exit poll of voters. Nearly nine in 10 Democrats voted for Al Gore. The interest groups allied with each party lined up loyally and fiercely behind their man; in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, you could almost hear bone crunching bone as groups such as the National Rifle Assn. (for Texas Gov. Bush) and organized labor (for Vice President Gore) slammed into each other.
In a society so closely divided, any president would have a tough time building a consensus for his agenda. That becomes an even more imposing challenge after an election that, however it turns out, will leave half the country feeling it was robbed.
Who wrote that? Ron Brownstein, of course.
Despite the Left’s bitterness after the 2000 election, Pres. Bush made the effort to be a uniter, not a divider. Peter Wehner notes this, and I recently noted the bipartisan support Pres. Bush got on many of his major initiatives. Moreover, as Wehner notes, Pres. Bush actually gained 5 points in approval among Democrats (from 32 percent to 37 percent) between his Inauguration and early April, while Pres. Obama has lost 16 points of support among Republicans so far.
The media whitewash crew deludes itself at its own peril. Several polls show Republicans gaining against Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot. The CNN poll of adults has the Democrats’ lead shrinking from 25% to 15% in less than three months. The Diageo/Hotline poll of registered voters has the lead shrinking from 24% to 5%. The most recent NPR poll of likely voters has the parties at parity. As the GOP’s poll ratings are still awful (and rightly so, given the lack of leadership from the party), the numbers are more easily explained as a backlash against the polarizing partisanship of Obama and the Democratic Congress.