A House Divided

In the Age of Obama, America is becoming polarized. The “Anointed One” promised the country that he could bring us all together, but now it seems he is tearing the nation apart.

During the course of U.S. political history, Americans were polarized in a handful of instances, most notably in the 1850s, just before the War Between the States.

Abraham Lincoln warned of this just three years before the war. On June 16, 1858, upon receiving the GOP nomination for a United States Senate seat in Illinois, Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech to the Republican state convention in Springfield.

Quoting the words of Jesus, Lincoln proclaimed “‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Obama campaigned on a similar theme and on the night he won the presidency spoke of a new direction in American politics:

“Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, ‘We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.’ And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.”

But we now find ourselves not united but as divided as ever. There is little evidence that Obama is attempting be fulfill his lofty campaign rhetoric. He has become a divider, not a uniter.

No president this early in a term has seen the kind of popular uprising that has emerged with the Tea Party movement. Obama has exhibited a total disregard for Republicans and like-minded citizens. He has rammed unpopular legislation through Congress even as polls indicated the nation is against his agenda.

And Democrats are becoming more and more frantic these days to get the attention off their power-grabbing programs and onto something else.

They fear the Tea Party movement and desperately want to destroy it, namely by demonizing it as racist. The media are complicit in the leftwing smear campaign. Major outlets have stated that the underlying motive in the healthcare debate is racism. The Baltimore Examiner even compared the Tea Party movement to a “Klan Rally.”

Supposedly, Tea Party members hurled racist and hate-filled epithets at members of Congress. Supposedly, Tea Party members spat on members of Congress. However, capitol police officers were standing in close proximity to these congressmen and never made any moves toward the Tea Party members.

But, rather than bringing us all together, and speaking out against the race-baiting media, as well as those in his own party who are desperately fanning the flames, Obama has yet to address the issue.

By the end of the Obama presidency, America will be more divided than it has been in decades and race relations will be set back 30 years.

A recent Rasmussen poll showed Obama with a disapproval rating of 51 percent, while 48 percent approved of his job as president. The striking number in this poll was that 99 percent had an opinion one way or the other, instead of the usual 8, 9, or 10 percent who don’t know.

Our House is becoming Divided. But which way will we go?

The Party of No

With the healthcare debate over, and a brand new healthcare law on the books, Republicans stood in complete unison against the liberal assault on the free market. Not one single GOP member of Congress supported the final bill or the reconciliation “fix its” that came afterward. Democrats have been quick to pounce on Republican “obstruction” but the GOP should maintain their stiff resistance and “just say no” when it comes to liberal ideas.

Since losing control of the government, Republicans have been sensitive to charges that they represent nothing more than a ‘party of no.’ But during the furious debate, they unveiled a healthcare proposal of their own. The plan has its merits. Running just 230 pages, as opposed to the 2,200 page monstrosity produced by House Democrats, it relied on the free market rather than government to fix a flawed system. It included tort reforms and, most importantly, allowed health insurance to be sold across state lines, thereby putting an end to state monopolies. In addition, several incentives were built-in to encourage Americans to open healthcare savings accounts, as well as to encourage states to lower health insurance premiums.

If nothing else, the proposal demonstrated the stark contrast between conservative and liberal ideas on healthcare, giving the people a true choice. But Republicans are under no obligation to propose a healthcare bill or any other issue for that matter.

For starters, the GOP does not control either house of Congress or the presidency, so its under no pressure to produce anything. Democrats wanted both a congressional majority and the White House, and voters gave it to them, so its up to them to produce legislation and govern the country, not Republicans.

Democrat complaints would be like a football coach asking his counterpart on the opposing team to suggest plays to run.

A similar situation occurred in the 1890s. The major policy issue was the tariff. Grover Cleveland, a Democrat when Democrats were cool, attempted to lower tariffs during his first term, but his tariff bill was defeated in the Senate and he lost his bid for re-election in 1888. The new president, Benjamin Harrison, and the Republican-controlled Congress, were having trouble passing legislation. Democrats suggested proposing a tariff bill similar to one that was defeated during Cleveland’s administration but the former president had different advice.

Seeing the Republicans “getting deeper and deeper into the mire,” he wrote Congressman John Carlisle, “our policy should be to let them flounder.”

“A bill presented by us,” the former president continued, “will give the enemy what I should think they would want: an opportunity to attack some other measure instead of defending their own. In this way they can shift ground and throw more dirt in the eyes of the people.” And even if a good bill were drafted, “nothing really good coming from our side would go through.” So why bother.

Democrats took the former president’s advice and stayed out of the policy debate. Republicans eventually passed several far-reaching pieces of legislation during that session – higher tariffs, the nation’s first antitrust act, and a bill to increase the money supply, which led to inflation. They even tried to place local elections under federal supervision but failed. As a result of the overreach, Americans reacted angrily and Democrats, the ‘party of no,’ regained the House and Senate in the 1890 mid-terms. Two years later in 1892, Cleveland regained the presidency.

History has shown, such tactics can work in the short-term. Remember, Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, and then increased their majorities in both houses while gaining the presidency in 2008, and never did have a positive program for success. They simply ran against George W. Bush and the Republican party. As Sarah Palin exclaimed recently, while campaigning for John McCain, Republicans should not be a party of no, but a “party of hell no!”