The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, April 10, 2009


Obama the Divider

All we heard during last year's campaign was that Barack Obama was some great figure who would unite our country in a new "post-partisan" era. However, according to Michael Gearson in Real Clear Politics Obama is dividing the nation like no other president of modern times.

Who has been the most polarizing new president of recent times? Richard Nixon? Ronald Reagan? George W. Bush?

No, that honor belongs to President Barack Obama. According to the Pew Research Center, the gap between Republican and Democratic approval ratings for Bush a few months into his first term was about 51 percentage points. For Obama, this partisan gap stands at 61 points. Obama has been a unifier, of sorts. He has united Democrats and united Republicans -- against each other.

The Pew report notes that this is the extension of a long-term trend. Decades ago, a majority of Democrats approved of Richard Nixon's job performance early in his first term. A majority of Republicans did the same for Jimmy Carter. But that has not been true for any president since....

There is an argument in favor of political polarization. Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan, in their time, were polarizing presidents precisely because they were ambitious presidents. They believed that some national goals were worth the sacrifice of amity. A decisive leader is sometimes a divisive leader.

But Obama's polarizing approach challenges and changes the core of his political identity. His moderate manner and message appealed to a country weary of division and ambition -- a nation now asked to endure another round of both. But Obama's domestic agenda is also resoundingly typical -- as though he were some conventionally liberal backbench senator suddenly thrust into immense influence. Which, of course, he is.

Polarization in American politics has its own disturbing momentum, aided by some strident Republican voices. But that does not require a president to make it worse. And it is a sad, unnecessary shame that Barack Obama, the candidate of unity, has so quickly become another source of division.

Rare Opportunity

Valley art legend John Sendelbach is selling some of his beautiful weirdness on eBay.

winter has passed, and i am now getting a second spring...having spent the winter in atlanta, where trees began blooming weeks ago. i am now back in production up in massachusetts, working through a pile of metal that made the cut after the great purging of my belongings in december, which facilitated my transition to the south and beyond. i cleaned house and pared it down to a few pickup trucks of stuff! not bad, considering i slimmed down from a whole house and workshop full of things.

thanks for looking...

Check out the full selection here.

Cool Ride

Dig this car parked in downtown Northampton.

Today's Video

Poking around YouTube I was surprised to come across this video of an old record player playing the Spirit in Flesh album by Pioneer Valley guru Michael Metelica Rapunzel. The video reminds me of why the band never really took off commercially - they sucked. The lead guitarist had promise, but Rapunzel himself wrote trite lyrics and was a loud braying vocalist.

Song List

1 Weight of the World
2 Blind Leading the Blind
3 Jack Baker Song
4 Hear My Plea
5 Riverside Song
6 Fine Line
7 Deny to Me
8 Meek Shall Inherit the Earth
9 Flesh and Cut
10 Clear the Way


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Obama sucks. I like the political cartoon with the two newspapers. One thing I remember from living at UMass in 2004 was the angry foaming-at-the-mouth liberals walking around wearing pins that read "51 percent is not a mandate". They honestly expected President Bush to sheepishly approach his second term and basically apologetically let the opposition run the show. All of this because he "only" won 51 percent of the popular vote. I wanted to ask these people to name the last democratic candidate to win 51 percent of the popular vote. Answer: LBJ in 1964. The last democrat to win a majority of the popular vote (before Obama) was Jimmy Carter with just over fifty percent. Then along comes Obama with his whopping 52 of the popular vote and suddenly it's time for those pesky conservatives to get out of the president's way because THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!

52% = a mandate
51% = not a mandate.

The other thing is the Spirit in the Flesh Album. I happen to have spent the last four months researching the commune, and I spoke to a guy who was in the band, and he says that Michael Metelica (later known as Michael Rapunzel) always took credit for writing the songs, even though he actually wrote very few of them.

Incidentally, there was another album that was unreleased. I know someone who has a copy of it.

The story of the commune is absolutely fascinating.


Mark T. Alamed said...

I'm no great fan of Obama...but context is important to any story, especially about poll results.

From Greg Sargent's blog "Plum Line:"

"The fellow who oversees Pew Research’s political polling is disputing the claim, made by some on the right today, that the much-discussed new Pew poll showing a stark partisan divide in Obama’s approval rating proves that Obama is a “polarizing” President.

“It’s unfair to say that Obama has caused this divisiveness or to say that he is a polarizing president,” Michael Dimock, Pew’s associate director, told me in an interview just now.

Many on the right have grabbed on to the Pew poll’s finding that Obama’s approval rating has a 61-point partisan gap — 27% of Republicans approve, while 88% of Dems do. Pew called the numbers “the most polarized” in decades but didn’t blame Obama.

Former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner pointed to the numbers to slam Obama as the “most polarizing” President in decades and to blast Obama’s promise of bipartisanship as “fictional.” Drudge branded Obama “President Polarize,” and many others on the right echoed the charge.

Pew associate director Dimock, however, says this is a misreading of the poll. Dimock says the divide is driven by long term trends and by the uncommonly enthusiastic reaction to Obama by members of his own party — by what he calls “the way Democrats are reacting to Obama.”

Interestingly, Dimock also said this phenomenon is partly caused by the recent tendency of Republicans to be less charitable towards new Presidents than Dems have been.

In contrast to the 27% of GOPers approving of Obama now, more than a third of Dems (36%) approved of George W. Bush at a comparable time in 2001. Before that, only 26% of Republicans approved of Bill Clinton at the same time in his presidency, while 41% of Dems approved of both George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan at comparable times.

Dimock, who said that the sheer scale of Obama’s agenda could be hurting Obama among GOPers, claimed that the willingness to give the incoming President the benefit of the doubt hasn’t been “as prevalent among Republicans.”"

S.P. Sullivan said...

"There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president." - Kurt Vonnegut.

I've been reading up on Dunbar's Number a lot recently, and I'm starting to think it's impossible for anyone to successfully lead anything bigger than a Christmas car list.

Tommy said...

I've been told that Rapunzel made another reoord, and that there are plenty of tapes around of live performances. I'd love a tape of his concert at the Julia Sanderson Theatre in Springfield that I attended and which set in motion my own pilgrimage to meet the guru.

I dislike polls, they are inaccurate and the results are easily manipulated. Still I think Gearson is right in that Obama blew a real opportunity to get some hard things done in a bi-partisan way when he dropped all pretense of bi-partisanship immedately after he was elected.

All that "let's come together" rhetoric of the campaign has proven to have been pure bullshit.

Mark T. Alamed said...

"All that "let's come together" rhetoric of the campaign has proven to have been pure bullshit."

That was proven on inauguration day, when Obama used his speech to upbraid the former President who was sitting just feet away.

Now we have Cheney and Biden going at it. Such class.

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