Philip — Thomas Edsall made some good points in his TNR piece, but he showed an absolute lack of historical knowledge in this sentence: Both Reagan and Bush were masters of polarization. They calculated that it would be better to win by one vote, with a clear policy mandate, than to try to bring along a less committed 60 percent of the electorate with an appeal to consensus and compromise.
Where was Mr. Edsall during the 1984 Reagan campaign? It was just the opposite. Rather than run on specifics and try to get a policy mandate for any particular policies (especially domestic) during the 1984 campaign, Reagan’s team ran a happy-talk, morning-in-America campaign aimed at trying to win all 50 states. Some of us criticized the campaign for doing that, and were proved right when his domestic agenda, so skillfully advanced during the first Reagan term, stalled almost completely from then on. There was almost nothing whatsoever polarizing about that 1984 campaign — unless you were a clueless coastal liberal to whom the very existence of Ronald Reagan was polarizing in and of itself.
All of which is why the entire Edsall piece should be taken with a grain of salt: It might just be nothing more than liberal wish-fulfillment.