Democrats and Republicans have become increasingly polarized over the years on all kinds of issues, but that partisan divide has become more pronounced over the past twenty years. On issues such as health care, the environment, abortion, immigration, and more, Democrats and Republicans haven’t always agreed, but the partisan gap was much smaller twenty years ago.
One of the most telling aspects of the Gallup poll is that no other issue divides Republicans and Democrats more than whether the federal government has too much power. But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, as Gallup notes, in 2003, there was almost no gap between Democrats and Republicans on the issue. “This reflected, at least in part, the continuing aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a time marked by unusual public consensus on the role of government in addressing major problems like terrorism,” explains Gallup’s Frank Newport.
But that all changed under Barack Obama. By 2013, the next time Gallup polled on the issue, “Republicans had become much more likely than Democrats to believe the federal government has too much power, creating a large partisan gap in 2013 that has continued this year.”
This makes a lot of sense. Barack Obama’s answer to every challenge faced by the country was bigger government. His 2009 stimulus package sent government spending skyrocketing to unprecedented levels, all while failing miserably to get the economy into recovery. Obama’s stimulus was supposed to keep unemployment below 8%, but it ended up reaching 10% in October 2009.
All jobs lost in post-World War II recessions were recovered after about twenty-five months on average. But it took seventy-seven months — roughly halfway through Obama’s second term — for employment to return to pre-recession levels, making his the slowest recovery of them all — and by a wide margin. Obama is also the only president in U.S. history to have never had a single year of 3% or greater GDP growth.
But perhaps the most significant expansion of government under Obama was the passage of the poorly-named Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare) in 2010. It took a lot of corrupt behind-the-scenes deals and legislative maneuvering to just barely get passed. Obamacare included an individual mandate, an expansion of Medicaid, and coverage requirements. Unfortunately, people quickly found out that it didn’t make health coverage more affordable at all. In fact, Obamacare has done nothing to reduce the number of Americans who delay seeking medical care because of costs. The numbers were lower prior to Obamacare being passed.
Related: The Nine Lies of Obamacare
Barack Obama, be it through his stimulus, Obamacare, financial and environmental regulations, or expanding the government’s role in education, reminded Republican voters that bigger government is a bad thing, and it usually fails to accomplish its alleged goals. The only problem is that while Republicans got the message, Democrats did not. Whatever Obama did, they supported. Whether it was out of party loyalty or fear of being dubbed a racist, the Democrat Party embraced big government because of Barack Obama, and they’ve been that way ever since.