Politics has always been--and likely will always be--a down and dirty business. If you think some of the name-calling and accusations thrown about by the candidates this year were outrageous--you need to read up on elections from the 1800's. And that was just what they published in the newspapers. But the incredibly divisive style of electioneering--and governing--that is now prevalent in America can be blamed on one man--Karl Rove.
Rove was the man who headed up George W Bush's Presidential campaign win in 2000--which ushered in the new style of politics. Rove didn't try to run a "national campaign"--where a candidate sought to build a centrist platform and appeal to the broadest pool of voters across the country as a path to victory. Instead, Rove (whom you could consider the first "Advance Analytics" guy in American politics) focused the Bush campaign on only getting to the magic number of 270 to win the Electoral College vote. No more wasting time, effort (and most importantly) money in states where a candidate had no chance to win any electoral votes. Campaign resources were to be used only in states where you either knew you were going to win--based on demographics--or in states with close divides in party affiliation--which will ultimately decide the victor.
And the Rove approach to winning those battleground states was to focus on getting near-total turnout from the dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, push those who "lean Republican" all the way to the right and to force the Democratic opponent to run as far left as possible so as to be seen as an "extremist". That left so-called "independent voters" with no one in the middle ground--and the choice of "the lesser of two evils".
Rove was hailed as a "genius" after 2000 because not only did he get Bush elected with that strategy--he did so by actually losing the popular vote, but squeaking out enough votes in the Electoral College--where it really mattered. Because politics is a copycat game, Rove's approach is now the standard for both parties. And it has trickled down to all levels of government--"focus on your base" can be found all the way down to City Council and School Board races. And unfortunately, until someone can come up with a different successful formula that everyone else will want to copy, Karl Rove's legacy will live on for decades to come.