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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/7/11

Calling Obama a "Polarizing Figure" Hits the Nail Right on the Thumb

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An AOL column called "Poll Watch" posted a piece on February 6 by Bruce Drake that referred to President Obama as a "polarizing figure."  Referring to polls, Drake wrote:

Even some of Sarah Palin's supporters might concede she is a polarizing figure. But she gets some stiff competition on that score from President Obama. For a chief executive in the second year in office, he had a wider divide between how the two major political parties see him than any chief executive dating back to Dwight Eisenhower during comparable points in their terms, according to Gallup's numbers for 2010.

Democrats approved of the job Obama was doing by 81 percent last year compared to 13 percent for Republicans, a gap of 68 points. That was significantly above the "party gap" for Ronald Reagan in his second year (56 points) and Bill Clinton (54 points) in his sophomore year. The president with the smallest partisan gap was Jimmy Carter in 1978-79, for whom it was 29 points.

And the piece continued (at click here).

This elicited from me a comment (which unfortunately I could not post there because evidently one must register with AOL and get an AOL email address and such to be able to post).

My comment read:


To talk of Obama as a "polarizing figure," like Sarah Palin, is to miss the essential dynamics at work here.  The fact that the public may be polarized around a figure does not, in itself, indicate that the person him/herself is "polarizing."  The issue is:  from whence comes the polarization.

In the case of Sarah Palin, she talks about "real Americans," and clearly as an antagonism toward those Americans she regards as unreal.  If people are polarized in their opinions of her, it seems appropriate to regard her as doing the "polarizing."  She's the one dividing the nation into two polarities, her friends and her enemies.

Obama, by contrast, came to national prominence in a speech where he declared that we do not have red states and blue states but are the UNITED States of America.  And he has continued to attempt to position himself as a bridge and a conciliator.  He systematically tries to avoid polarization.

But meanwhile, his opponents have represented him as an illegitimate president, not born in the United States, who pals around with terrorists and wants to establish Sharia law in the United States, a socialist out to destroy the foundations of American capitalism.  His opponents have succeeded in persuading large elements of their base that he was born in Kenya and that he is a Muslim.

So no wonder there is considerable polarization in opinion of this president.  But that does not make him a "polarizing figure," with the implication that the impetus behind the polarization has to do with him and his words and his actions.

Andrew Bard Schmookler

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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