Most partisan era ever?

This week, Chris Cillizza, a Washington Post reporter who runs a popular political blog, “The Fix,” argued, along with Aaron Blake, that Barack Obama is the most partisan president ever.

For evidence, the writers use Gallup polls measuring how much the voters of each party approve of the performance of each president. According to the numbers, there is a 68-point partisan gap, the highest for any president’s third year ever.

Lest the reader concludes that it’s all Obama’s fault, the writers point out that George W. Bush’s fourth, fifth and sixth years in office produced 76, 72 and 70-point partisan gaps respectively.

“We are simply living in an era in which Democrats dislike a Republican president (and Republicans dislike a Democratic one) even before the commander in chief has taken a single official action,” Cillizza and Blake opine.

It can’t be denied that today we live in a highly charged political climate. However, the rush to proclaim our era, and our president, as the most partisan ever reveals a lack of knowledge of the past and an arrogant view of the importance of now, as compared to the past.

It is fairly easy to dispute the notion that this is the most partisan era in the history of the country.

In the winter of 1860-1861, seven states seceded from the country following Abraham Lincoln’s election. During the nullification crisis of 1832, President Andrew Jackson was prepared to send troops to South Carolina, and threatened to hang John C. Calhoun. In the early 1800s, the political climate was so partisan that in 1800 the vice president led the fight to replace the president, and in 1804 the sitting vice president killed the former secretary of the treasury in a duel.

Compared to these episodes of American history, today’s era seems kind of tame.


Tony Petersen is the opinion editor of The Collegian. Follow him on Twitter @tonypetersen4.

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