Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Divided States of America: Nation Most Polarized in 70 Years

By Kyle Becker

The Wall Street Journal has put the results of the 2012 election in historical perspective: there are more single-party controlled states than at any point in the last 70 years. There have been few times in this nation’s young history when Americans have been more divided about what direction the country should be heading.

Ben Shapiro provides some numbers for citizens to ponder: “When governors are counted as well, there are just 12 states across the country with divided government. A full 38 states are of a single party.” That means 3/4 of the states are in party lock-step, while the Congress is evenly divided.

The president promised ‘hope and change’ in his first term and millions of Americans put their faith and trust in a single man to unify the country. The nation’s first black president garnered multi-regional support from predominately white states like Nevada, Colorado, Iowa , Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia, and North Carolina. Obama swept into office with approval ratings approaching 70% of the citizenry.

The media proclaimed the president to be a moderate, post-racial candidate who would work in a bi-partisan manner to solve the many tough problems resulting from the tumultuous Bush years. A faltering economy appeared to be the first priority for the president. But soon after the Bush-initiated bank bailouts and the $812 billion stimulus package were implemented in order to stabilize the economy, the long, rancorous fight to implement nationalized healthcare was initiated.

A bad taste lingers in many Americans’ mouths from that grueling public battle. Hundreds of thousands participated in a “tea party movement” in reaction to unchecked government spending and perceived constitutional abuses stemming back to the Patriot Act. The news media added fuel to the fire by going into full ridicule mode, blasting citizens across the country for engaging in the kind of democratic activism that the left had long championed.

Then the Occupy Wall Street movement sprung up in cities to provide the radical left’s answer to the problems facing the nation. Some activists were critical of President Obama; many supported more entitlement spending and government-dispensed rights.

In between each side of the most politically charged ends of the spectrum was a middle unable to pick sides: most sought bi-partisan cooperation to solve the nation’s mounting economic issues, and particularly, nagging high unemployment. When legislators following the 2010 Republican landslide were unable or unwilling to reach compromise with the Democrats, on proposals such as tax hikes in exchange for spending cuts, demoralization set in across much of the country.

An intensely bickering and frivolous Obama campaign, which was evaluated as 96% negative, was rejoined by Mitt Romney at a rate of about 69%. The cloud that seemed to hang over the president from his poor first debate performance to the relentless questioning over Benghazi dissipated into thin air with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. In most unseemly fashion, NBC journalists Chris Matthews and Savannah Guthrie expressed gratitude for the deadly hurricane’s timing.

High levels of alienation from politics was seen in the relatively lower turnout for both parties in what was hyped as a monumental presidential election. The final results are drastic: a nation more polarized along party lines than it has been since the New Deal era’s partisan battles.

Ben Shapiro frames one of the most important underlying dynamics in the party polarization, and that is the question of who pays for whom? As he wrote:

Red states are governed very differently from blue states. Of the 22 right-to-work states, which have provided 72% of the jobs under the weak Obama recovery, only Iowa (divided), Nebraska (nonpartisan unicameral legislature) and Nevada (Democrat-controlled legislature) are not solid red. Meanwhile, the bluest states – states like Michigan and California and Illinois – are totally bankrupt.

Meanwhile, all 50 states have residents who have signed onto a White House website-hosted petition to secede from the union. While this does not suggest the imminent end of the United States as a country, it does signal an extremely high level of disaffectation among hundreds of thousands of Americans.

For much of the Obama presidency, nearly twice as many Americans surveyed by Rasmussen strongly disapproved of the president’s policies than strongly approved. Nonetheless, this gap closed very dramatically just prior to the president’s re-election. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie welcomed President Obama to his state, creating bipartisan optics for a president that can reasonably be shown to be less than conciliatory on most issues. (Continued)

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