Evidence continues to mount that President Obama's legacy when he leaves office in 2017 will be best captured by the phrase “Great Divider.” For his fifth year in the Oval Office, Obama's “partisan gap” - the difference in the two major parties' approval rating of a president - is 71 points, as measured by Gallup. That nearly ties Obama with President George W. Bush's 72-point gap in his fifth year in office.
But Obama’s overall tenure tells the rest of the polarization story: “Obama's first, second, third, and fourth years in office were the most polarized for any president's first, second, third, or fourth years," Gallup found. "However, the 71-point party gap in ratings of Obama's job approval during his fifth year in office is slightly less than the 72-point gap found in Bush's fifth year.”
|Obama is determined to focus on an issue - income inequality - that ranks near the bottom of concerns for the vast majority of Americans.|
One year into his second term, there is no reason to think Obama is softening his approach. If anything, Obama is doubling down on programs and policies that are certain to divide the country even further.
First, the president is refusing to be reasonable or realistic about Obamacare, which is proving a bigger train wreck than anyone could have imagined. For him, and his Democratic congressional allies, it’s full-speed ahead and damn those obstructionist Republicans for putting up legislative obstacles, either in the form of bills passed by the House or GOP senators offering amendments and insisting on open debate and recorded votes in an election year.
No matter that five million or more Americans have already lost their preferred health insurance, millions more are losing access to the doctors and care providers they like or must have, and costs are skyrocketing for inferior coverage. These problems will intensify and grow more damaging – as will the campaign rhetoric — in the coming months as voters prepare to go to the polls in November.
Second, Obama is determined to focus on an issue that ranks near the bottom of concerns for the vast majority of Americans. Two-thirds of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction and half say getting the economy moving again is the most important issue, according to the latest Fox News poll. Only 13 percent of those surveyed pointed to income inequality as the country’s most important issue despite the fact Obama has made it the top priority of his second term.
But income inequality is less valuable an indicator of societal economic health than wealth inequality because the latter measures total assets available to an individual. As the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis has pointed out, “In 1989, the top 1 percent owned 37.4 percent of U.S. net worth. In 2010, that share was actually a bit lower at 35.4 percent.” There is less wealth inequality now than 25 years ago. But don’t expect to hear that in the Great Divider’s State of the Union address next week.