Saturday, October 30, 2010

Our divisive president, redux

President Obama was elected on the promise of reinventing Washington. He vowed to bring a new spirit of civility and cooperation to frequently hostile and polarized environment. The reality, however, has been so at odds with his campaign rhetoric that professional Democrats Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen felt compelled to denounce Obama's record in a Wall Street Journal piece back in July. I linked to that piece in an earlier post.

Now, on the eve of a landmark off-year election, Caddell and Schoen return with even sharper criticism of Obama's leadership:
We write in sadness as traditional liberal Democrats who believe in inclusion. Like many Americans, we had hoped that Obama would maintain the spirit in which he campaigned. Instead, since taking office, he has pitted group against group for short-term political gain that is exacerbating the divisions in our country and weakening our national identity.The culture of attack politics and demonization risks compromising our ability to address our most important issues - and the stature of our nation's highest office.

. . .

The president is the leader of our society. That office is supposed to be a unifying force. When a president opts for polarization, it is not only bad politics, but it also diminishes the prestige of his office and damages our social consensus.

Moreover, the divisive rhetoric that Obama has pursued can embolden his supporters and critics to take more extreme actions, worsening the spiral.

. . .

With the country beset by economic and other problems, it is incendiary that the president is not offering a higher vision for the nation but has instead chosen a strategy of rank division. This is an attempt to distract from the perceived failures of his administration. On issue after issue this administration has acted in ways that are weakening the office of the president.

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