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Q: use of "divisive" in Bush speeches ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: use of "divisive" in Bush speeches
Category: Relationships and Society > Government
Asked by: bugbear-ga
List Price: $35.00
Posted: 07 Jan 2004 11:54 PST
Expires: 06 Feb 2004 11:54 PST
Question ID: 294102
Lately the word "divisive" has been used a lot by American
politicians.  I believe it was first used extensively by 
the Bush administration, but was quickly taken up by the
Democrats.  Is this true?  When did the word start to appear
in Bush's speeches?  Was it used extensively by politicians
before this?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 07 Jan 2004 12:14 PST
Perhaps this link from the Internet Archives will shed some light on your question:

The graph at the top of the page shows a huge spike in "divisive"
around January 2002.  Trouble is, I have absolutely no idea what the
graph is all about...!?!?

Maybe another researcher can add some insight here.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 07 Jan 2004 17:45 PST
On the archives of the Clinton White House web pages, which are found here:

a search for the word "divisive" turns up 36 distinct results:


A similar search on the Bush White House web pages:

turns up 21 results:


Of course, Clinton's folks had 8 years to accumulate speeches and the
like, while Bush has only been at it for 3 years (seems longer,
though, doesn't it...!).

Then again, I don't know how comprehensive the two sites are in terms
of overall inclusion of speeches, transcripts, etc.

Just a little food for thought, I suppose.  Let us know if there is
any specific sorts of information that would make for a satisfactory
answer to your interesting question.

Clarification of Question by bugbear-ga on 07 Jan 2004 18:15 PST
Certainly it seems the word was used a good deal in the Clinton
years.  And yet I don't remember hearing it as much then as I
have lately.  Maybe this "spike" is the key, if we can figure 
out what's going on.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 07 Jan 2004 18:40 PST
Nah, turns out the spike is nothing much (it wasn't even there when I
checked just now...the data seems to have "moved" somehow).  I was so
curious about the spike, that I fired off an email to the author of
the "Recall" program, who explained what it was...long story short, it
doesn't indicate more activity on the word "divisive", so it doesn't
help out all that much.

HOWEVER, here are some interesting tidbits (you may be able to
tell...I'm starting to take the challenge of your question a bit
personally...!).  I ran some searches on Google and noted the count of
the results:


president divisive 1996
45,200 results

president divisive 1997

president divisive 1998

president divisive 1999

president divisive 2000

president divisive 2001

president divisive 2002

president divisive 2003

president divisive 2004


I'd certainly expect to see some growth in the "divisive" numbers,
simply because the internet itself has grown so enormously in the past
few years.  But I was surprised by the -- I have to say it -- "spikes"
in 2000 and 2003.

The 2000 results may be a reflection of the election campaigns.  The
2003 results may be the hard numbers to back up you impression that
the current political climate is truly reying more heavily on the word
"divisive" than in the past.


Clarification of Question by bugbear-ga on 14 Jan 2004 08:24 PST
I think this is good enough as an answer.  BTW, pafalafa-ga, the
reason I'm asking is a new essay I just put online (it reached
number 2 on blogdex and daypop):

I've already changed the wording not to blame "divisive" on Bush.
He does like the term, but it was clearly already popular.

Several of the questions I've asked lately were for this, though
I didn't end up using all of them.
Subject: Re: use of "divisive" in Bush speeches
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 14 Jan 2004 08:36 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Thank you, Paul.  It's both generous and honorable of you to accept my
information as your answer.  And that's not just based on the the
moral fashion of the moment, either.  There are some universal and
timeless values, I believe.

Daypop is a great indicator of the pulse of the blogging world.  If
you hit their Top 40 list (numer 2, no less!), then you've had a lot
of eyeballs on your thoughts and ideas.

Hopefully, it will make a bit of difference in the world!

Keep up the good work.

bugbear-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $7.00
very thorough

Subject: Re: use of "divisive" in Bush speeches
From: hlabadie-ga on 07 Jan 2004 12:21 PST
The word has been in the political lexicon for a long time. Newt
Gingrich was frequently described as divisive, for instance.

Democratic Cookie Baron Challenges Gingrich

"But the energetic and amiable Coles sees himself with a fighting
chance because his opponent, he says, is a divisive, out-of-touch,
career politician."

Subject: Re: use of "divisive" in Bush speeches
From: pinkfreud-ga on 07 Jan 2004 12:52 PST
I associate the buzzword "divisive" with liberal politicians. Bush's
use of the term was co-opted from the left, I think.

"Divisive is a term employed by Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and their
Campaign 2000 managers. Identical terms include Politics of
Divisiveness, Racial Divisiveness, and Wedge-Issue Politics."

"Hillary jabbed an elbow into the mayor's ribs with a comment on the
evils of divisiveness. It was merely a preview of things to come.
Before it wraps up, this thing is bound to get down and dirty. It has
to... That's why Rudy brought up the carpetbagging issue Monday. It's
also why Hillary made her crack on David Letterman's show about Rudy
arresting homeless people. It's why the word 'divisive' has become a
key part of her campaign vocabulary."
Subject: Re: use of "divisive" in Bush speeches
From: juggler-ga on 07 Jan 2004 14:46 PST
I agree with Pinkfreud.  Bill Clinton frequently used the term
"divisive" in his speeches.

Here's one example from almost 10 years ago:

" We must never again permit crime to be divisive in a partisan
political way, and you can stop it and I want you to do it..."
- Bill Clinton, October 17, 1994, REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE
Subject: Re: use of "divisive" in Bush speeches
From: hlabadie-ga on 07 Jan 2004 15:20 PST
Here's a usage dating back to the 1980s:

1. Lyndon Johnson Calls for Affirmative Action

"6. Assistant Attorney General Reynolds Outlines Reagan Administration
Opposition to Affirmative Action

"...We no longer will insist upon or in any respect support the use of
quotas or any other numerical or statistical formulae designed to
provide to non-victims of discrimination preferential treatment based
on race, sex, national origin or religion. To pursue any other course
is, in our view, unsound as a matter of law and unwise as a matter of
policy. Race-conscious or sex-conscious preferences are, as history
has shown, divisive techniques which go well beyond the remedy that is
necessary to redress, in full measure, those injured by a particular
employer's discriminatory practices..."

No doubt there are others going back into the 19th Century. Lincoln
was viewed as divisive.

Polarizing is another term that has been traded back and forth.


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