Which is stupid, of course, since no one can.
In this weekend's New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich makes this point by looking at the long history of how the word has been applied to Clinton — and how polarization has actually worked. "Mitt Romney was not a polarizing figure because he was caught on video writing off 47 percent of the electorate," Leibovich writes. "He was a polarizing figure because he was running for president of a country in which about 40 percent of the electorate, probably more, had written him off from the get-go, same as with the other guy." Calling Hillary Clinton polarizing, in other words, is like calling a bear "inhuman." A bear is an animal; of course it's not human. And Hillary Clinton is a politician. Of course she's polarizing.
Clinton has polarized America since the outset. There's been a remarkable stability to her net favorability since America first learned who she was: Democrats like her, Republicans don't, and independents can go either way.
That is because — stick with me now — Democrats like Democrats and Republicans don't, and vice versa. The strength of that opinion varies depending on how politically charged that person is. Hillary Clinton was much more disliked by Republicans in 2007, when she was a threat to win the presidency than she was in June 2008, when she wasn't. And when she was happily working away in Foggy Bottom in 2012, Republicans barely bothered to hate her at all.
If anything, Clinton's long presence on the national stage has meant that she's less likely to enjoy the new-guy bump. If you look at the split in favorability between a president's party and the opposing party each quarter since the president first takes office, the least polarized period is right at the outset. Then, as time passes, the opposing party starts to dislike him more and more, culminating at the point of reelection.
We must note, of course, that the split between the parties has grown more stark. In February, we looked at approval ratings by party for presidents since Eisenhower. Literally always there is a gap between the two that reflects the party that controls the White House. Unfailingly, if I showed you poll approval ratings of the president from both parties, you could tell his party by whichever number was higher.
But that gap has been consistently wider in the second terms of the two most recent presidents than the two two-term presidents who preceded them.
That's the world that Hillary Clinton is walking into. (Or, I suppose, continuing to walk through.) She's been polarizing since 1992, because she has been in politics since 1992. And whoever takes the oath on Jan. 20, 2017, is almost certainly going to be just as polarizing. It is entirely a function of the job.