Presumably spurred by a Gallup analysis on Friday of partisan splits in approval ratings of recent U.S. presidents, both Politico (John Harris and Jonathan Allen) and WaPo’s The Fix (Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake) devoted top billing this morning to an effort to dash any remaining hopes of bipartisan action on the nation’s major challenges before 2013 at the earliest.
This rather banal realization is interesting primarily because it has emerged from the Beltway redoubt of those most likely to harbor the illusion that Great Big Adults in both parties ought to be able to get together and cut deals that can then be sold to the rubes around the country as representing a victory for their team.
While both articles appear to assume that Barack Obama has been the last person in DC to “get” that partisan and ideological polarization has grown to the point where decisive elections are necessary to get much of anything done, it’s the WaPo piece that follows Gallup in implying that Obama himself is responsible for hyper-polarization. Cillizza and Blake do at least cite the Gallup data showing that George W. Bush actually presided over the highest levels of polarization yet recorded (in his fourth, fifth and six years in office). Harris and Allen go a bit deeper, quoting University of Georgia political scientist Keith Poole in citing radicalization of the Republican Party as being the most important source of polarization:
“The Republican Party has been steadily moving to the right since the 1970s,” Poole said. “The Republicans have moved about three times the speed to the right as the Democrats have moved to the left.”
Neither article quite gets around to mentioning the relatively low odds for a galvanizing 2012 election that produces some sort of mandate, or the institutional barriers to governing that became so apparent when Democratic struggled to enact an agenda after their 2008 across-the-board victory.
But it is nice to see that the illusion of easy bipartisanship is now largely limited to Americans Elect supporters who somehow think partisans are preventing the American people from embracing by acclamation an agenda of wildly unpopular “entitlement reforms” and tax increases.