A Washington Post story from earlier this week reports, “There is a noticeably more aggressive, confrontational President Obama roaming the country these days, selling his jobs plan and attacking Republicans for standing in the way of progress by standing up only for the rich.” That report, if anything, understates things a bit. Obama has essentially given up on his governing responsibilities (at which he has shown himself to be terribly inept) in lieu of a fierce and near constant attack on his political opponents. I have my doubts as to whether that strategy will work. But the point I want to make is a different one, which is that Obama has become the most intentionally divisive president we’ve seen in quite some time.
It’s not unusual, of course, for the policies of presidents to divide the nation. And politicians running for re-election often highlight differences. But Obama now belongs in a separate category. Each day, it seems, he and/or his supporters are seeking to divide us. The rhetoric employed by the president and his allies is meant to fan the flames of resentment, to turn Americans against one another, and to stoke up feelings of envy, grievances, and rage.
This is not healthy for our country or good for our political culture. And while we all contribute to what constitutes public discourse, there is one officeholder, the president, who bears the greatest responsibility for creating a sense of common purpose and for reminding us that we are, in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Yet the president is trying, with almost every speech, to pry us apart. It’s a strategy he clearly believes is necessary for him to win re-election. But that doesn’t make what he’s doing any less shameful or any less hypocritical.
It was Obama, after all, who – more than any political figure in our lifetime – promised to heal the breach. That was at the very core of his message, and his appeal, during the last presidential election.
For example, in his announcement speech on February 10, 2007, it was Obama who complained, “We’re distracted from our real failures and told to blame the other party…” He would not sink to such depths, he promised us.
It was Obama who said in his 2007 Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa, “I don’t want to pit Red America against Blue America – I want to be the president
of the United States of America.” It was Obama, in his March 18, 2008 speech in Philadelphia (addressing the controversy over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright) who said, “We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism… That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time….’” It was Obama who told Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone, “I want us to rediscover our bonds to each other and to get out of this constant petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics.” It was Obama who said during his acceptance speech on August 28, 2008, “If you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint
your opponent as someone people should run from.” And it was Obama who said on the night of his election, on a stage in Grant Park, “I will listen to you,
especially when we disagree… Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics
for too long.”
What he has done is the antithesis of what he said. Barack Obama has succumbed to virtually every partisan temptation, reached for every stale tactic, and bred division and conflict and cynicism across our land. He has resorted to petty bickering and pitted Red America against Blue America. He has even characterized his political opponents as “enemies.”
I suppose there are worse things a president can do, but this is bad enough. He is purposefully causing wounds that will be hard to heal – and he’s only just begun. Things will get uglier before they get better. Eventually, and thankfully, we will rediscover our bonds of affection. But it will require removing Obama from office before we do.