With roughly two weeks to go before America heads to the polls, there is one inconvenient truth liberals and conservatives can agree on: our nation is deeply divided along ideological lines bringing with it an increasingly caustic tone to the political debate.
Not at all surprising, both sides fervently blame the other.
But who’s right?
To answer that question, one has to first determine when the chasm began.
Some think it started during the Vietnam War when America exploded on our television sets with contrapuntal images of protests and flag-draped coffins. A handful of years later came Watergate along with Richard Nixon’s resignation which acted to further divide us.
But Ronald Reagan seemed to solve all that – or at the very least, the expanding economy and wealth creation of the ’80s temporarily soothed what ailed us.
His two terms ushered in historic pieces of legislation despite him always having to cope with a Democrat-controlled House. His ability to effectively deal and negotiate with Speaker Tip O’Neill in his first six years in office was a hallmark of his presidency.
Historians have written about this close friendship between political rivals, and how the two shared drinks in the White House after bills Reagan was trying to get through Congress were debated.
Try to imagine President Obama and John Boehner (R-Ohio) enjoying a beer in the Oval Office if the Republicans do indeed take back the House in November.
So how did we go from what on the surface appeared to be one nation under Misters Reagan and O’Neill to the train wreck currently before us?
Maybe the first fender-bender happened when the Democrats and the media excoriated George H. W. Bush for raising taxes in 1990.
Although the Left conveniently forget the details of what led to Bush going back on his “Read My Lips” campaign pledge, the reality is that a Democrat-controlled Congress forced what ended up being political suicide on the President and used it to defeat him in the 1992 elections.
Even the liberally-biased Wikipedia understood this:
The Democrats, who controlled Congress, refused to agree to any massive spending cuts without at least some tax increases. Despite these problems the budget for the 1989 fiscal year was passed with relative ease, largely as the White House team and Dan Rostenkowski, chair of the House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee, agreed to postpone talk of both deep cuts and tax increases until the next year. The budget for the next fiscal year proved far more difficult. Bush initially presented Congress a proposed budget containing steep spending cuts and no new taxes, but congressional Democrats dismissed this out of hand. Negotiations began, but it was clear little progress could be made without a compromise on taxes.
Indeed. But when election time came, Bush took the fall for a tax hike engineered and orchestrated by Democrats – with full complicity by the media, of course – ushering in Bill Clinton as our 42nd President.
Republicans to this day are still rankled by how this hike was disingenuously blamed on Bush who should have been a shoo-in to get re-elected after the success of Desert Storm.
But that was just the first crack, for after Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, the President said the following on April 24, 1995:
We hear so many loud and angry voices in Americatoday whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that -- by their very words, that -- violence is a acceptable. You ought to see -- I'm sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in Americatoday. It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of reckless speech and behavior.
At the time, everyone knew Clintonwas referring to Rush Limbaugh; the president used a domestic terrorist attack on our nation to point an accusatory finger at a popular conservative talk show host.
Just five months prior when Republicans took over both Chambers of Congress, the liberal press savaged Newt Gingrich and conservatives. Magazine covers in December 1994 referred to “The Gingrich That Stole Christmas.”
The would-be Speaker was being eviscerated before he was even sworn in, and the beatings continued until he was forced to resign in November 1998.
Ironically, a few months before Gingrich’s departure, Hillary Clinton appeared on NBC’s “Today” show complaining about a “vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."
With Monica Lewinsky-related impeachment proceedings looming, now it was going to be the Left claiming they were the ones being attacked, and the national fissure widened.
But these were all likely minor tremors.
The real earthquake shook America when Al Gore chose to put the nation through five weeks of hell by contesting Florida’s election results in November 2000. To this day, the Left believes George W. Bush stole the White House while people on the right think Gore and his Party needlessly forced this issue to either steal the Office for themselves or discredit the newly-elected president.
For his part, Bush, who campaigned as a uniter and not a divider, tried to bring the country back together by reaching across the aisle to get twelve Senate Democrats to support his 2001 tax cuts.
He also worked with Ted Kennedy and other Democrats to enact No Child Left Behind early that same year. This passed with huge bipartisan majorities: 384 to 45 in the House, 91 to 8 in the Senate. The October 2002 war resolutions also passed with huge bipartisan support in both Chambers.
Although biased media members won’t admit it today, Bush was true to his word and did initially unite the country in his first two years in office.
By July 2003 as things turned sour in Iraq, and Howard Dean began voicing anti-war opinions, almost all of the Democrats that voted for the previous year’s resolution began blaming the war on Bush and the Republicans. This caused a tremendous amount of resentment on Capitol Hill that hasn’t dissipated.
Think about it: you get elected to Congress and your vote is your vote - especially on something like sending our nation to war.
To after the fact blame the President and his Party for your vote is despicable and cowardly, and a lot of Republicans felt they had been betrayed by their colleagues on the other side of the aisle with this shameful revisionism of history that the press pathetically allowed them all to get away with.
But this was only the beginning, for 2003 was the year billionaire George Soros decided to mount a full-scale attack on Bush to prevent his re-election. As Newsday reported in September 2006:
Soros in 2004 spent some $26 million trying, unsuccessfully, to defeat President Bush’s reelection bid, a task Soros called “the central focus of my life” and “a matter of life and death.” He has likened Republicans generally, and the Bush administration in particular, to “the Nazi and communist regimes” in the sense that they are “all engaged in the politics of fear.” “Indeed,” he wrote in 2006, “the Bush administration has been able to improve on the techniques used by the Nazi and Communist propaganda machines by drawing on the innovations of the advertising and marketing industries.” Soros elaborated on this theme at the January 2007 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he told reporters: “Americaneeds to . . . go through a certain de-Nazification process.”
The avid Bush hater also gave many millions of dollars to MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress, extreme left-wing entities spreading anti-Republican propaganda to any press outlet that will pay attention.
From this point, the contentiousness in Washington continued to grow, and didn’t wane when Bush won re-election becoming the first president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936 to do so while increasing majorities in both chambers of Congress.
As his second term began, Bush was stonewalled by Democrats in his attempt to reform Social Security, and with media dishonestly telling the citizenry the program was in solid shape for decades to come, Republicans sadly punted on this issue.
Enter Hurricane Katrina later that year, and the Left assisted by their media minions actually blamed a sitting president for a natural disaster thereby making him a lame duck less than nine months into his second term. This led to some truly disgusting things said of Bush by Democrat leaders – as well as a former president from Georgia – furthering the divide in the nation.
Ironically, the election of Barack Obama as president was supposed to end all the acrimony, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather than try to work with Republicans, this Administration chose to use its Party’s overwhelming majority status to push through legislation without any support from the GOP.
Consider that Obama's first bill – the stimulus package – didn’t have one Republican co-author or sponsor in either the House or the Senate.
This of course was telegraphed by Obama during his first meeting with Congressional leaders just three days after his inauguration as reported by the Wall Street Journal:
The top congressional leaders from both parties gathered at the White House for a working discussion over the shape and size of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan. The meeting was designed to promote bipartisanship. […]
Challenged by one Republican senator over the contents of the package, the new president, according to participants, replied: “I won.”
The statement was prompted by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona , who challenged the president and the Democratic leaders over the balance between the package’s spending and tax cuts, bringing up the traditional Republican notion that a tax credit for people who do not earn enough to pay income taxes is not a tax cut but a government check.
Obama noted that such workers pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. The issue was widely debated during the presidential campaign, when Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, challenged Obama’s tax plan as “welfare.”
With those two words — “I won” — the Democratic president let the Republicans know that debate has been put to rest Nov. 4.
This “I Won” attitude of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid’s continued as they tried to pass cap-and-trade legislation on their own, and despite public opposition to ObamaCare, perverted parliamentary rules by enacting it using reconciliation.
Add it all up, and we saw far more bipartisanship in Bush's first two years than what we've seen in Obama's. That's because Bush realized he didn't have a strong enough coalition to ram things through Congress and therefore had to work with Democrats to get things passed.
By contrast, with the huge majorities Obama has enjoyed, he, Pelosi, and Reid felt they didn't need Republicans to get anything done and chose to do it all on their own come hell or high water.
Not surprisingly, the Administration and its Party have continually blamed the GOP for the lack of bipartisanship routinely calling it “The Party of No.” But any impartial look at what has happened in the past twenty-one months produces a completely different picture.
Let's take for example the recent "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal attempt. Not that most people know due to the press's horrible coverage of this vote, it was attached to a huge defense appropriations bill that also included immigration legislation known as the DREAM Act.
Reid allowed only a tiny number of amendments to this bill thereby limiting senators the ability to make changes to it. It should go without saying that amendments are essential with appropriations bills to prevent excessive pork-barrel spending.
But no, Reid wouldn't have any of that, and basically insisted Republicans accept the bill - with all of its earmarks and the DREAM Act and DADT repeal! - as is.
Republican Susan Collins of Maine was for the DADT repeal, but voted against cloture because she felt it was ridiculous to have amendment limits on such a huge and sweeping piece of legislation.
The really inconvenient truth is that if DADT repeal had come up that day as a stand alone bill, it would have cleared the filibuster. But instead, Reid absurdly made it part of a huge defense appropriations bill and limited amendments.
True to form, as so-called journalists reported the failure of DADT repeal, Collins and the GOP were blamed.
Also not surprisingly, Obama after Inauguration Day quickly assumed Clinton’s role as Whiner-in-Chief immediately setting his minions out to demonize Fox News and conservative talk show hosts having the gall to disagree with his policies.
This has culminated in the White House’s recent deplorable accusation that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is illegally funneling foreign money into GOP campaigns despite left-leaning outlets like the New York Times and CBS News demonstrating that this lacks any factual basis whatsoever.
Are Republicans completely blameless when it comes to the current caustic political tone? Certainly not.
But any impartial analysis of what has happened in the past two decades, and especially since George W. Bush was inaugurated, has to conclude that the Left and their media minions are far more responsible for the nation’s current political divide.