From James Zogby at the Gulf Daily News:
In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court decision ending the 2000 election, my brother, John Zogby, polled Democrats and Republicans, asking each whether or not they would respect the outcome of the contest and view as “legitimate” the presidency of either George W Bush or Al Gore. Two-thirds of Democrats said that, despite their misgivings about the process, they would still respect the outcome and see Bush as the “legitimate” president. Less than one-third of Republicans said that they would respect Gore as “legitimate.”
Based on this finding, John expressed concern, at the time, that should Gore be declared the winner, Republicans would mount a rather strident opposition, doing their best to obstruct his presidency.
In any case, the Supreme Court ruled in Bush’s favour and Gore, ever the statesman, conceded, urging his supporters to unify the country. And so, despite hard feelings about the way the GOP had hounded Bill Clinton, almost derailing his presidency with endless investigations and an impeachment, and the ugliness and heat of the post-election drama, Democrats accepted the Bush presidency. After ten years as the dominant force in Congress, Republicans lost control of both houses in the 2006 election. And then, in 2008, their eight-year hold on the White House came to an end. Barack Obama’s victory, unlike the contests of 2000 and 2004, was neither close nor controversial. It was decisive. Nevertheless, it appears from their behaviour, Republicans simply refuse to accept the fact that they have lost the White House and Congress. Their rhetoric is harsh and unyielding.
[A] Pew poll [...] found a gap of 61 points between Republican and Democratic approval ratings of President Obama’s job performance.
And then, on April 15th – the deadline for Americans to file their tax returns – there was a day of national anti-tax demonstrations. Many of the signs and slogans used by the demonstrators personally targeted the president.
Also a Department of Homeland Security report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fuelling Resurgence in Radicalisation and Recruitment,” came to light [that found] that “rightwing extremists have capitalised on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilise existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda [...]
The claim by conservatives that they are innocent of incitement, does not hold up. Listening to the near-hysterical attacks on Obama, and the government in general, launched by the likes of radio’s Rush Limbaugh or Fox TV’s Glenn Beck, can be frightening.
And the argument that this polarisation is the president’s fault, since it is he who is dividing the electorate, also has no foundation in fact. He is the president. He won the election, and is pursuing his agenda. This is what some conservatives can’t accept. And so, loosely translated, when they say Obama is a polarising figure, what they appear to mean is “we are angry that he won, and even angrier that he’s acting like the president.”
It is poisoning the well of American politics, and as the DHS report warns, it may pose dangers in the future.