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I recently reread a very informative New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza, called the Obama memos. I have assigned the article to my undergraduate health policy class, to help them understand the political climate surrounding the passage of The Affordable Care Act. And that climate was one of severe polarization, which cut against Obama’s naïve desire for a post-partisan presidency. Here is a quote from the article, that highlights this polarization:

According to the political scientists Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal, who have devised a widely used system to measure the ideology of members of Congress, when Obama took office there was no ideological overlap between the two parties. In the House, the most conservative Democrat, Bobby Bright, of Alabama, was farther to the left than the most liberal Republican, Joseph Cao, of Louisiana. The same was true in the Senate, where the most conservative Democrat, Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, was farther to the left than the most liberal Republican, Olympia Snowe, of Maine.

And here is a picture that illustrates this level of polarization:


Not surprising that Obama’s politically moderate health reform plan has now been characterized by Republicans as a socialist government takeover of our healthcare system. The middle is a very difficult place for politicians to work in, these days, a fact that makes political moderates like me nostalgic for, of all things, the 1980s.

Minus the big hair and shoulder pads, of course.

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