Bill Clinton: Polarization far worse now than when he was president
By Abdon M. Pallasch Political Reporter email@example.com October 11, 2011 6:28PM
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: President Bill Clinton attends Chicago Ideas Week on October 11, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for TIME Inc.)
Updated: March 26, 2012 10:08AM
“America has overcome all these prejudices we had,” he told participants in “Ideas Week” at Chase Bank in Chicago. “We’re not nearly as gender-biased as we used to be. We’re not nearly as racist as we used to be. We’re not as anti-gay as we used to be. The only bigotry we’ve got left is: We don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us.”
Former President Bill Clinton lamented Tuesday how much more polarized Washington, D.C. — and the whole country — has become since he left office.
“America has overcome all these prejudices we had,” he told participants in “Ideas Week” at Chase Bank in Chicago. “We’re not nearly as gender-biased as we used to be, We’re not nearly as racist as we used to be. We’re not as anti-gay as we used to be. The only bigotry we’ve got left is: we don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us.
As people burst into laughter, he threw out some statistics: In the 1976 presidential election, the vote margin between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford exceeded 20 percentage points in only 20 percent of counties in the U.S.
“That means people were having arguments in barber shops and beauty salons and coffee shops,” Clinton said.
But in 2004, more than 48 percent of counties were at least that far apart.
“Part of the problem with political paralysis in Washington is we just want to be around people” that have similar views, Clinton said. People say, “ ‘I’ve got enough problems in life — why do I have to deal with somebody that’s going to argue with me?’ Somehow we’ve got to get comfortable being with people we disagree with. This is a time for thinking. All this hyperventilating and name-calling, it’s highly destructive.”
Clinton plans to soon visit his old rival Bob Inglis, a conservative South Carolina Republican “who gave me unshirted hell when I was in the White House” but who lost a Republican primary to keep his seat in Congress in June 2010 because “he believed global warming was real,” Clinton said.
Inglis’ other sin in the eyes of Republican primary voters, Clinton said, was that after Democratic colleagues visited him in the hospital following an accident, he softened his approach.
“He had this epiphany that you didn’t have to hate people to disagree with him — that was a real non-starter in the Republican primary,” Clinton said.
Clinton also weighed in on the protests on Wall Street, Chicago’s LaSalle Street and other places: “It’s kind of like the Arab Spring, which was profoundly moving to me: they knew what they were against but they weren’t sure exactly what they were for.”
And, most importantly, he said mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to grant mortgage relief to struggling homeowners right now or face far greater losses in the long run.