ROOTING FOR FAILURE…. Last year featured one of the more baffling, big-picture political debates in quite a while. Just as President Obama was being inaugurated, conservatives began to explore whether it’s acceptable to actively root against America’s leader as they dealt with a variety of foreign and domestic crises.

In general, the right seemed to agree that there was nothing especially wrong in hoping for failure. The contingent was led by Rush Limbaugh, who told his audience the day before Inauguration Day, “I hope Obama fails.” A month later, Limbaugh, talking about efforts to revive the economy, added, “I want everything he’s doing to fail… I want the stimulus package to fail.”

We don’t hear quite as much about this anymore, but the sentiment hasn’t disappeared. The latest CNN poll (pdf) asked respondents a pretty straightforward question: “In general, do you hope that Barack Obama’s policies will succeed or do you hope that his policies will fail?” Overall, 61% want the president’s policies to work, 27% do not. That’s not especially encouraging.

But the partisan breakdown was especially interesting. Among Democrats, 89% are hoping for success. Among self-identified Independents, it’s 59%. Among Republicans, a 61% majority went the other way, hoping to see the president’s policies fail.

Here’s that breakdown in visual form:

I guess this isn’t surprising anymore, but I nevertheless find it rather depressing. It’s always struck me as the bare minimum of patriotism: don’t root against the home team. It’s one thing to disapprove of, or even actively loathe, the country’s elected leaders. But rooting for their failure has never supposed to be one of the options.

It’s really not complicated — the president’s policies, whether wise or not, are at least intended to bolster the economy and strengthen our national security. If those policies fail, Americans will suffer more and the country will be weaker.

And yet, a majority of Republicans are nevertheless rooting for failure?

Several weeks ago, George W. Bush noted, “I want my president to succeed because if my president succeeds my country succeeds, and I want my country to succeed.”

I have no idea why this concept is so hard for so many to understand.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.