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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Polarization: You Ain't Seen Nothin Yet

Because President Bush became such a polarizing figure, we may all forget that when President Bush was only a candidate one of his catch phrases was "I'm a uniter not a divider". For more than two years of his Presidency, President Bush was able to carry on in a relatively bi partisan manner. While his tax cuts didn't render overwhelming Democratic support, it certainly dwarfed the support that President Obama has received on any of his legislation so far. Immediately after passing landmark tax legislation, President Bush teamed up with liberal icon Ted Kennedy in passing No Child Left Behind. President Bush got nearly unanimous support for the initial Patriot Act. He even got about one third of the Democratic Party for the initial authorization to use military force in Iraq. In fact, it wasn't until Iraq turned ugly that Bush became the polarizing figure he is today.

Of course, if you think Bush was polarizing, well as the saying goes, "you ain't seen nothing yet". President Obama is well on his way to dwarfing the polarization in this country caused by President Bush. Polarization is measured by just how much passion different ideologies evoke toward a President's policies. Given that indicator, President Obama will set a new standard for polarization.

His stimulus plan has already created a firestorm of passion. Sites like No Stimulus.com have exploded their profile in opposing President Obama's stimulus plan. The stimulus has also been a boon for conservative talk radio. To say that the stimulus has created passions on all sides and set political fault lines is the understatement to end all understatements.

Of course, the polarization created by the stimulus will be nothing compared to the polarization that the mortgage bailout will create. Rick Santelli's now famous rant has become the rallying cry for the movement.

In fact, his rant has spawned a movement known as the Chicago Tea Party. The idea that people will be rewarded for their irresponsibility with better mortgage rates and terms is something that is perverse and totally unacceptable to many Americans. In fact, I predicted long ago that the process that the President is currently using, government subsidized loan modifications, will soon spawn a mortgage class war and that's exactly what is about to happen. If you think that some of President Bush's policies were controversial, that is nothing compared to a policy viewed by many, including me, as rewarding irresponsible financial behavior.

President Obama is only getting started in implementation of controversial policies. Universal health care may still be on the horizon and President Obama still hasn't said no to card check. Of course, President Obama's economic policies can be considered moderate compared to his social policies. For polarization, just imagine a Supreme Court nominee that makes Ruth Bader Ginsberg seem conservative. President Obama still hasn't produced a detailed plan to deal with an alternative to GITMO.

Most if not all of these battles will likely happen prior to the midterm elections in 2010. That means that President Obama will set new records for polarization and make for the next election to be rather interesting.

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