Hyper-partisan politics are not new. Political posturing is not new. The utter hatred of a president by the opposite party is not new. The country being deeply divided is not new. Having a divisive president is not new.

What’s new is questioning a president’s patriotism. What’s new is questioning whether a president is a “true American.” What’s new is questioning a president’s allegiance to the Constitution and his loyalty to the country. What’s new is questioning whether a president is “one of us.” What’s new is screaming about “taking our country back.”

What’s new is congressional leaders from the opposing party meeting on the night of a president’s inauguration and vowing to oppose him on everything, sight unseen, even if they actually agree with him.

What’s new is members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announcing – before a president has ever nominated a person to fill a Supreme Court vacancy – that they will not even consider a nominee, regardless of qualifications.

Politically, we are at point which is virtually identical to where we were in 1988 when the Senate gave Reagan a hearing on his 3rd appointment to the Supreme Court, during his final year in office.

Senate

  • 1988 vacancy
    In 1986, Democrats regained control of the Senate with two years remaining in Reagan’s 2nd term. Democrats controlled 55 seats.
  • 2016 vacancy
    In 2014, Republicans regained control of the Senate with two years remaining in Obama’s 2nd term. Republicans controlled 54 seats.

House

  • 1988 vacancy
    In 1986, with two years remaining in Reagan’s 2nd term, Democrats captured 258 seats in the House, leaving Republicans with 177.
  • 2016 vacancy
    In 2014, with two years remaining in Obama’s 2nd term, Republicans captured 246 seats in the House, leaving Democrats with 189.

Supreme Court appointment

  • 1988 vacancy
    Reagan made his third appointment to the Supreme Court with approximately a year left in office.
  • 2016 vacancy
    Obama will make his third appointment to the Supreme Court with approximately a year left in office.

Presidential approval rating

  • 1988 vacancy
    Reagan’s approval rating in February 1988 was 52%.
  • 2016 vacancy
    Obama’s approval rating for February 2016 is 50%.

Presidential divisiveness

2016 vacancy
President Obama has been very divisive. Not because of anything he has done or not done. Not because of the content of his heart.

It was the color of his skin.

1988 vacancy
Reagan was extremely divisive. But he chose to be. He sowed racial discord and fanned the flames of Southern racism intentionally, as a studied political strategy, to create a movement – an insurgency of near-rabid loyalists birthed out of the same irrational fear and God-condemned pride and feelings of superiority that gave rise to the Confederacy. And the Third Reich.

He also introduced social wedge-issues to divide churched and unchurched and pitted the haves against the have-nots.

Presidential integrity

2016 vacancy
Conservatives have spent seven years desperately trying to conjure-up a scandal they could hang on President Obama but they have been profoundly unsuccessful because of his impeccable character and fastidious morals.

1988 vacancy
A week after the 1986 election which brought Democrats back to power in the Senate, Reagan interrupted regular programming with a live address from the Oval Office to solemnly and repeatedly vow to the American public that he did not sell weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages.

Four months later, only eight months before naming his third Supreme Court appointment, Reagan returned to the living rooms of we-the-people for a second live address from the Oval Office, this time to admit – in a deal worked out to avoid impeachment  – that his address to the American public four months earlier was a lie; that he had sold weapons to Iran in violation of the arms embargo; that he had done it behind the backs of the American public; that he had negotiated with terrorists for the release of American hostages and lied about doing it.

And yet…

Democrats held hearings in the Senate and eventually approved Reagan’s third appointment to the Supreme Court, with only 11 months to go before Reagan would be out of office.

Yes, Democrats voted-down Reagan’s first two suggestions for his third appointment to the court. In the space of three weeks, Reagan nominated Robert Bork; then Douglas Ginsberg; then Anthony Kennedy, who was eventually confirmed. And, yes, Democrats started the modern-day all-out war and circus over Supreme Court nominees with the hearings they held on Robert Bork.

But the Democratic senators interviewed each of Reagan’s picks. The Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee considered each of Reagan’s picks. The full Senate — with a Democrat majority which was put into power by the people who had grown weary of Reagan’s presidency — held hearings on each of Reagan’s picks.

The 2016 equities between the parties are virtually identical to 1988, only reversed. The glaring differences between then and now all favor President Obama: President Obama didn’t commit an impeachable offense and then deliver a special address from the Oval Office to lie about it; President Obama wasn’t forced to humiliate himself on live national television to avoid impeachment; President Obama didn’t intentionally instigate racial division, religious division, economic division.

And President Obama has the strongest mandate-to-govern of any president in history:

  • In 112 years, only three presidents have been elected twice with 51% of the popular vote each time: Franklin D. Roosevelt; Dwight Eisenhower; President Obama. Not Bush, not Clinton, not Reagan.
  • President Obama received the most votes of any president in the entire history of the United States in 2008. The president receiving the second-highest number of votes was President Obama in 2012.
  • Since the founding of the Republican Party, only 9 presidents have been elected with coattails strong enough to propel the president’s party into a 60-seat majority in the Senate and 59% or greater majority in the House. Abraham Lincoln was the first; President Obama was the last. And the 7 in between did not include Bush, Clinton or Reagan.
  • Large crowds are being used today as a measure of strength and popularity. Candidate Obama drew 100,000 at the Gateway Arch, 100,000 at a morning rally in Denver followed by 45,000 at Colorado State that same afternoon. Trump and Bernie haven’t touched his records. President Obama drew 84,000 to his speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination, the largest in history for any acceptance speech. He drew 1.8 million to his inauguration, compared to 500,000 each for Bush II and Reagan and 800,000 for Clinton. He drew 200,000 at the Berlin Wall, compared to the 45,000 attending Reagan’s fabled “Tear down this wall” speech.

There’s no reason left to deny President Obama this historic opportunity, other than the color of his skin. Either give him a vote to fill the vacated black robe, or don your closeted white robe.

End-Post-Craig-Hardegree

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