In a sane world, Barack Obama’s exhortation to his supporters last Friday that “voting is the best revenge,” contrasted with Mitt Romney’s plea to his supporters to vote “for love of country,” would on its own be sufficient to ensure the president’s defeat on Tuesday. Obama has ended the most divisive presidency in modern history with the most divisive campaign of the modern era, and that campaign reached its nadir with the “revenge” line. No one has been able to discern exactly on whom or what Obama wants his minions to take revenge (math? Facts?). But while the words may have been nonsensical, the tone and the sentiment were unmistakably Obama at his most partisan and mean-spirited.
“Divisive?” liberals will cry. “But what about Bush?” Well, Obama’s predecessor certainly divided Americans over the invasion of Iraq and the War on Terror in general. But those were issues over which is was possible for reasonable people to disagree on principle (although the fact that those divisions largely disappeared when Obama took office suggests the objections of many on the left were anything but principled). And Bush never sought to divide. Obama, on the other hand, has deliberately and without shame exploited every existing division and grievance in American society, and created some entirely new ones.
This time four years ago, I wrote a piece for PJ Media titled “Obama and the Post-Racial Illusion,” the gist of which was that anyone who thought electing the first black president would take the issue of race out of American politics was kidding themselves. Sure enough, while Obama himself has stopped short of openly accusing his critics of racism (although he hinted at such motives during the 2008 campaign, and again in the early stages of this one), his surrogates in the media, Hollywood, and the Democratic Party have played the race card time and again, led by Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz, the hate-filled clowns of MSNBC. They’ve been abetted by a parade of print and TV reporters too numerous to name, although honorable mentions should go to Michael Tomasky and Charles Blow. Even the use by Republicans of the word “cool” to describe Obama was ruled off-limits.
Obama, meanwhile, has politicized racial issues in ways that are only slightly more subtle. One of the first signs that the man hailed as a transcendent, post-racial healer would be no such thing came in July 2009, when, just a few months after taking office, Obama interjected himself into the controversy surrounding the arrest of black professor Skip Gates, remarking that the police “acted stupidly.” More recently, he needlessly and provocatively intervened in the Trayvon Martin case, declaring that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
The president has been more hands-on when it comes to turning other divisions to his advantage. He’s sought at every turn to divide the rich against, not just the poor, but anyone who isn’t a “millionaire or billionaire.” He’s pitted the successful against the unsuccessful, the fortunate against the unfortunate, the hard-working against the feckless. He’s divided doctors against their patients (remember his caricaturing of doctors as tonsil-grabbing, amputation-happy money-grabbers?). He’s divided bosses against their workers with, among other things, his support for pro-union legislation. He’s pitted people of religious faith against women (with his HHS contraception mandate) and gays. He’s set decent, well-intentioned opponents of uncontrolled immigration against Hispanics.