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March 25th, 2010

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02:06 am - Thoughts on Scary People & a Divided Nation
  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
  • Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."
One poll only means so much, & especially one that asks if respondents think Obama is the antichrist. However, I've seen many similar polls. Here's an exceedingly well done and reliable looking poll of Republicans that gives very similar results.
  • 36 percent of Republicans believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
  • 63 percent of Republicans think Barack Obama is a socialist.
  • 24 percent of Republicans believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win.
  • 31 percent of Republicans believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people.
I thought about these polls a bit and compared it to my reaction and the reaction to many serious leftist Americans to Shrub. We use very different language, but several of those points sound like they amount to believing that Obama is not a legitimate president and that he's a horrifically bad one. The language of all of this is expressed in very right-wing authoritarian terms, but the sentiments are not all that different.

In fact, on one point, "38 percent of Republicans say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did", if asked that question about Shrub, I would have responded yes in the sense that I saw a whole lot of proto-fascism in his rhetoric and his policies.

Of course, this is a problem in and of itself. At this point, most people with significant political views in the US are now sufficiently polarized that they do no regard politicians from the opposing party as legitimate presidents. That's a fairly scary statement in and of itself, and it's not going to change anytime soon.

However, there are several in which the far right's attitudes about Obama are different from the vast majority of the lefty rhetoric I saw about Shrub. First off all, many of these people are confusing facts (claims about Obama being a Muslim or not a US citizen) with opinion, and also while I know a whole lot of people who (like myself) believe that Shrub was the worst US president in a century, believing that Obama may be the anti-christ or that he is a racist who hates white people is a far greater level of distrust and dislike than any but a tiny fringe of nutty leftists. There's another major difference – these people have mass media figures egging them on. Glen Beck did a lot to popularize the "birther" movement, and there's plenty of stuff just as crazy and even scarier out there. Here's a selection of scary comments by far-right media personalities from 2007, and there's been plenty of similar comments since then.

The comments by all of these pundits and ideologues have now borne dangerous fruit. We have horrifying militia sites like this one, and we have broken windows and anonymous calls for assassination of congress people who support the healthcare bill, and their children. In any case, I see the most important differences between reactionary feelings about Obama and progressive feelings about Shrub as:
  • Far greater numbers of people oppose Obama than opposed Shrub, which is clearly driven by the fact that the far-right has a much larger mass media presence that the far left. People are influenced by the mass media, and especially people with a major RWA orientation respond strongly to people they consider to be authority figures playing on their fears and anger.

  • The people on the far right have a much greater tendency to confuse facts and opinions.

  • Many of these people feel a level of hatred and fear regarding Obama that is substantially greater than any but an exceptionally tiny number of people felt about Shrub.
The result of these three factors means that these people's ideas are self-reinforcing, they are largely impervious to reason, and there a far greater likelihood that some of them are going to get violent. Combine this with the obvious racism, homophobia, and similar hatreds common to many, or perhaps most of these people, and the odds of violence are even higher. In short, I understand how many of these people get to where they are, but they still really scare me. I also know that whenever I see either of the disturbingly well known quotes "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" or "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants", I'm dealing with people who should not be trusted.
Current Mood: worriedworried

(30 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 09:11 am (UTC)
I have never seen any president of either party since I became an adult as legitimate. And every time I think the present prez is the worst in history, an even more wretched one gets elected.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)
I'd be impressed at any justification you could muster for Obama being worse than Shrub. Clinton sucked, and Obama is IMHO exceedingly mediocre, but to me Shrub made even Bush I & Reagan look almost tolerable by comparison.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
"...believing that Obama may be the anti-Christ or that he is a racist who hates white people..."

That above, especially the second 1/2 of it indicates how racist those are who actually believe that.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC)
I wish he were a socialist. A center-right corporatist is better than a PNAC puppet, but in the way the flu is better than a systemic infection.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
I'll cop to a certain degree of Shrub-bashing, but that's because a lot of what he was doing rang to me as being pretty antithetical to the Rule of Law and deeply scary.

While you're exactly right that some of the rhetoric from the previous opposition bears a resemblance to the Right's current line of thinking, I have genuine difficulty squaring the Right's rhetoric with reality in the same way I could with GWB.

Either I'm failing at flexibility, or something is very off.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
These questions weren't even asked on polls about Bush. We hated him in a silly way by giving him cute diminutive nicknames. We didn't like that he was put into the white house by a supreme court vote--but we did recognize that it was a very close election. There were tons of shenanigans with voting machines the second time around.

But most of the allegations against Obama are racist and not practical. And the majority of Americans voted Obama in, there were not voting machine scandals, or supreme court decisions. Obama ran on the health care platform and won on that platform.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
I disliked GW Bush with an intensity that bordered on personal.

I never, ever, suggested that someone shoot him, or Karl Rove who continues to be a poison in the waters of democrasy, or suggested a violent overthrow of an administration that I felt was oppressive and dishonest to the point of being dangerous. I agree to live in this country and abide by its laws, even though I don't always agree with the people who are elected to run it.

I think that's what makes a fervent Obama supporter different from a fervent right-wing supporter. I recognize that we all have to live together and respect each other. They believe I'm out to get them, and if shooting me is how they protect themselves, then that's their right as Americans.

You're correct. It's scary. I would point out, though, that we've always had a lunatic fringe that makes up about 25% of the population. It's just that now they have their own news outlet.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
I completely agree.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
The Democrats kept building their tent bigger and bigger, and the Republicans responded by picking up the neglected John Bircher vote. Even the gutted, corporate-friendly healthcare reform that passed is a significant improvement on the previous situation— getting rid of the denial-for-preexisting-conditions and lifetime caps, and adding the exchanges that come online in 2014, means I might have a hope of starting my own business and still being able make sure my wife gets the care she needs. There are still a lot more problems to fix, though, and it will continue to be an uphill slog.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 07:51 pm (UTC)
What's worrisome is that the big tent model doesn't in practice turn out to be any more successful than courting the paranoid bigot vote.
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
Just a couple of thoughts:
I am not really an Obama supporter. Being at the far left, I am not included in the so-called "big tent" of the Democratic party. However, he was elected as fairly and squarely as any president in our corporate oligarchy. On the other hand, I find concerns about Bush's legitimacy to be understandable, given the close election and the voting irregularities,particularly in the state where his brother was governor. The fact that the election was decided by the Supreme Court is far more compelling than worries about a birth certificate. I won't even go into all that happened during Bush's presidency other than to point out that we became involved in two unnecessary, expensive, and seemingly endless wars as well as a "cold war" of paranoia about terrorism.
Also, does anyone else think of Kristallnacht when they hear about right-ring thugs breaking windows across the nation?
[User Picture]
Date:March 26th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
The asshats who are calling for assassinations and breaking windows of people who support the healthcare bill should be arrested and prosecuted as the terrorists they are. They're just as bad as Timothy McVeigh and Al-Qaeda. The only difference is that these terrorists haven't gotten hold of bombs.

As for the quote "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants," the word "patriots" is missing. The correct quote is "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Thomas Jefferson said that about the American Revolution.
[User Picture]
Date:March 26th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
Despite the many problems with them, the current circumstances make me really wish for a poll quiz, because if you don't have a passing grasp of reality, you shouldn't be allowed to participate in the political discourse (and you should receive a free voucher for a basic fucking civics/critical thinking course).
[User Picture]
Date:March 26th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
I've believed in this for some time. Similarly, for ballot initiatives, if you don't have an actual grasp of what you are voting for or against, your vote should not count. Of course, the problem is that the only remotely fair way to make this work is to have representatives of both sides approve all ballot questions and so I'm far from certain that the result would be useful.
[User Picture]
Date:March 27th, 2010 07:04 am (UTC)
I hope this doesn't mean I'm not to be trusted, but ... if these wackadoodles ever manage to take ove the USA and dismantle the basic form of our government and transform the USA into a totalitarian-nationalist state, I might have to water some trees. Just sayin'. Riflery and chaos is not my preferred method of social change, but it's hard to debate someone who is trying to kill you. I am glad to live in a country with a (mostly) functioning federal police system.

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