The Polarizing Republicans

Barack Obama ran for president expressing his desire to transcend partisan differences. Dan Balz has written about those who see him as a polarizing president. While it is true that polarization is greater than was hoped for by Obama supporters. the real problem is not a polarizing president but increased polarization caused by the right wing noise machine.

Polarization is being created not by Barack Obama but by those on the right who were determined to oppose him regardless of his policies. They aren’t going to tone done their attacks no matter how much Obama has moved to the center and incorporated Republican ideas in his policies. During the 2008 campaign we heard the absurd claims that Obama was a socialist, and we would have heard the same regardless of who the Democratic nominee was. Obama’s background presented the right wing with even additional avenues for creating polarization with their bogus claims that he is a Muslim and is not a native born American citizen.

The right wing was determined to oppose any form of health care reform, regardless of how moderate. They erroneously attacked Obama’s plan as a government take over of health care–the exact same phrase used in their attacks on John Kerry’s even more conservative plan in 2004. When the Democrats modeled their plan on the Republican counter-proposal to Hillary Clinton’s plan, Republicans attacked the same ideas they promoted in the 1993.

Democrats did make a political mistake in passing the health care plan without first obtaining more public support, but the lack of support is due to the misinformation spread by the Republicans. Just last Friday NPR’s morning edition had a story on the outlandish myths being spread about health care reform. Typically these claims begin with a small amount of truth which is distorted by conservatives so that it no longer has any relationship to what is in the plan. The full story specifically cites Fox and Ron Paul as distorting the facts, but many other conservatives are responsible for creating polarization with misinformation.

Similarly we see misinformation in many other areas. We’ve seen Tea Party demonstrations against Barack Obama for increasing taxes when he actually cut taxes on 95 percent of Americans. They protest against Obama for bail outs which were started by George Bush. Government assistance to General Motors, designed to ultimately get it back on its feet as a private business, is nefariously described as an attempt to socialize American industry. We’ve even seen the Tea Party attack Obama with demands that government stay out of their Medicare, oblivious to the fact that Medicare is a government program, and failing to understand that Obama’s goal is to strengthen Medicare.

We are a polarized country, but the president is not the one to blame when we have the Republican Party, and their mouth pieces at Fox and on talk radio, constantly spreading both misinformation and hatred.