If Bush had managed to put a Social Security privatization bill before Congress, our numbers would be different. But not as different as you think. There actually was a kind of test vote on Social Security privatization in 2001 in the House, and 20 Democrats voted yea. So even if such a vote had taken place in 2005, we have reason to think Bush would have received a higher percentage of support on that—the single most important program to Democrats—than Obama got from the Republicans on anything.
And it’s not as if I’m hiding high-profile votes on which Republicans, in bursts of magnanimity, broke the above pattern. Remember the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, way back right after Obama was sworn in, before the stimulus poisoned all that goodwill? That won the backing of three Senate Republicans (yes, the same “stimulus three”—Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter), while another three House Republicans, out of 175, voted yea. And no, the recent debt-ceiling vote does not count. That was an “Obama initiative” in about the same way that Dunkirk was a Churchill initiative.
What does this history tell us? It tells us plainly that one side is usually against the other guy, but within bounds that are to be expected, while the other side is blind with rage against the other guy. I wish every American knew this. It would be a start for Democrats to tell them.