"This is the most polarized I've ever seen it," has been the echo of
scores of political observers. The visceral reaction towards the
ideas of others is, if not the worst, high, as we approach 2010.
The fact that any development is up for criticism shows just how
divisive the parties are. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize, for example,
is not something Obama sought, but did receive. But it is not enough
to think about whether he deserved the honor; opponents feel
comfortable demanding he give it back. Not so peaceful.
It is not only Republicans throwing out toxic talk. Democrats and
those who call themselves liberal seem to have a zero tolerance policy
for other views as well.
How has the health care debate become so polarizing? Each side
making the "public option" issue the line in the sand. What if Obama
has determined health care has to be done incrementally? Last January,
many Democrats thought that was the best strategy. Now, somehow, it
must be all or none, furthering the tension, and in some ways,
reducing the likelihood of passage of the bill, or even something akin
to the public option as a stand-alone bill but perhaps with compromise
measures and costs further addressed.
There are so many possible scenarios on health care: Senate
Republicans vote en bloc against the Senate bill, Democrats in the
House defeat a Senate bill, etc. In either case, they are defeating a
bill already cleared by CBO as a step to insure Americans that
actually lowers the deficit.
The silent majority now is the voice of the "independent", which, if
you listen past the yelling to hear the voices, the ground of most Americans.
When Obama and McCain became their parties respective nominees, it was
a vote for the most "independent" candidate. Obama campaigned on the
promise of change and offering a new kind of politics. So it is no
surprise he will in turn anger partisans on every side. Obama won
with unprecedented numbers of small donors, and less special interest
money than his predecessors.
Parties: this effects you. You have less power than if he had been a
pick for and by the establishment. He was not. He earned his
It is the job of a political party to adhere to its message and
platform. It is the job of the President to lead the nation. Nine
months in to his presidency, President Obama's leadership style is
taking shape. So far, one thing seems clear: he knows who brought him
there. He heard the voices of millions of Americans who thought
politics as usual had to change. If that is your promise, and
partisans on both sides are mad at you over specifics you did not lay
out during the campaign, it may be that you still remember what you
heard, the vision of America you see, and the promises you will
attempt to deliver.
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