The late, longtime New Yorker critic Pauline Kael was said to have expressed confusion over Richard Nixon’s landslide re-election in 1972 â€” because no one she knew had voted for him. To borrow that notion, conservatives today imagine that everyone views the current occupant of the White House as they do: Barack Obama is the worst President ever. Conventional wisdom posits that this potent right-wing, anti-Obama sentiment will diminish the President’s power â€” enough for Republicans to vanquish Democrats in November, regain control of Congress and weaken the incumbent for 2012.
But this myopia has been created within an electronic cocoon of Fox News, talk radio, conservative websites and rhetoric from Republican leaders, all passionately reinforcing the message that the Obama Administration is disastrous on a historic scale. It’s a message that is being transported as gamely by rank-and-file Republicans as it is by erudite conservative columnists with national readerships. (See 10 elections that changed America.)
Of course, in this modern age of extreme polarization, only one President these past 30 years (George H.W. Bush, the pÃ¨re) has escaped the regular damning hyperbole of “worst ever.” But the condemnation of Obama seems somewhat more extreme.
The blue-red divide, by almost every measure, has gotten worse, and the ubiquity of electronic media spreads intense political and cultural disdain in the blink of an eye. The always enlightening Google reveals that typing in “Obama worst president ever” yields 3.4 million results, vs. 1.8 million for “Bush worst president ever” and 1.2 million for Clinton. That stat seems representative of where we have arrived as a nation and illustrative of the relationship between the incumbent President and his critics. (See the top 10 political defections.)
Conservatives from the upper echelons of elected officials in Washington and state capitals, presidential-candidates-in-waiting such as Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, 2010 stars such as Rand Paul, and testy Tea Party activists all believe they have an objective case to rank Obama as 44th out of 44 Presidents. Not only do they think his policies are misguided and out of step with America’s greatest traditions of individual liberty and free enterprise, but they are convinced that his relative lack of experience and youth confirm the pre-election suspicions that he is not up to the job.
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