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EDITORIAL: The great divider
President Obama is becoming the most divisively partisan president in history. At this point, he has less bipartisan support than former President George W. Bush after the Florida recount or former president Bill Clinton, whose first months in office were marred by missteps over gays in the military and the 51-day Waco, Texas siege that killed 74.
After a little more than two months in office, Mr. Obama has created the widest partisan gap in America since pollsters started measuring this in the 1960s. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, 88 percent of Democrats approve of the job he's doing, but only 27 percent of Republicans give him a thumb's up. That means the partisan gap is 61 percentage points. A Rasmussen survey shows that those who strongly disapprove of Mr. Obama have almost doubled. Only 16 percent strongly disapproved of the president on Jan. 21, the day after his inauguration. By Sunday, that number had jumped to 30 percent.
Mr. Obama's partisan gap is particularly jarring when compared to Mr. Bush's bumpy start. With the contentious 2000 Florida recount fresh in Democrats' minds, the partisan gap in April 2001 was 51 percentage points. Amid that controversy, Mr. Bush was enjoying nine percentage points more support among Democrats than Mr. Obama is now getting among Republicans. Mr. Clinton was no darling to Republicans, but his partisan divide was 45 percentage points early in his first year. And before that, former President George H.W. Bush had a gap of only 38 percentage points at the same stage in his presidency.
The polls don't tell us the reason for Mr. Obama's huge partisan gap, but a few sources of opposition angst are clear. Since taking office, the president has pushed legislation that breaks one campaign pledge after another by veering far to the left of his moderate campaign rhetoric.
In each of the three presidential debates, Mr. Obama promised “a net spending cut” in government and a reduction in the deficits that he at the time blamed for the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He promised “no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” Repeatedly during the campaign, he promised that, “you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime.” He also promised to eliminate earmarks and increase defense spending. Mr. Obama has reneged on all these commitments.
When Mr. Obama ran for president, he portrayed himself as the great uniter who would deliver a torn nation to the post-partisan promised land. The reality is that his increasingly far-left ideological policies have stranded the country in the barren desert of division.
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