People will believe that president Obama would euthanize their grandparents. They will believe that he “hates white people.” They will cry in public and ask for their “America back” — when to most of us America doesn’t look all that different from last year. That is, unless there really is no place in one’s America for a black president — but I don’t honestly believe that’s what that woman was thinking. Even if race played into her fears, I’m pretty sure it was subconscious.
So why is it that people are willing to believe such extreme things about Obama and the Democrats? Why are they willing to believe, not just that they have misguided ideas, but that they have such actively evil intentions? It seems incredible to me.
A friend of mine asked me an interesting question the other day. “Do you think this is how conservatives felt during the Bush years?” She wondered. “That they couldn’t figure out why so many were fearful of the administration’s policies — not just disapproving, but fearful?”
My friend, much like me, is a “liberal” in her values, without being committed to any technocratic or partisan political agenda. We are liberals because we believe in freedom and compassion and fairness. We want things like poverty and discrimination to be eradicated without necessarily being wedded to particular policy approaches. We love the founding fathers and will fight any white supremacist who tries to appropriate them for their own sick visions of “their” America. We are willing to be just as hard on the government under President Obama as we were on the one under President Bush on all the same issues: state secrets doctrine, extraordinary renditions, military tribunals, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, wall street bailouts with practically no strings attached. . . etc.
And yet, we too, are willing to accept that the Obama people aren’t dangerous in ways that maybe we weren’t always absolutely certain about the Bush people. (Although sometimes I do think Tim Geithner is the devil, but that’s a different post).
I will say this, though: the whackos on the left — the ones that used to peddle anti-Bush theories that 9/11 was an “inside job” or that the delay in responding to Katrina was a result of Bush “hating black people” — never really got traction with mainstream or influential liberals. Not one factually unproven conspiracy-type theory about the Bush administration was taken up by anyone prominent enough that I can recall his/her name. Dan Rather doesn’t count — he relied on the wrong documents but his charge, that Bush didn’t fulfill his National Guard duties, was true and substantiated; and even if he does count, that’s just ONE. On the other hand, mainstream, influential conservatives — Bill Kristol, Lou Dobbs, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity — don’t seem to have any qualms about giving credence to complete fabrications about “death panels” and “Kenyan citizenship.”
I will also say this: for all the conservative accusations of inadequate liberal respect for our erstwhile “commander-in-chief” — no liberal ever actively wanted President Bush to fail as a president. We just wanted him to be a better president. Rush Limbaugh actually said he wanted Obama to fail (and Fred Thompson and Bobby Jindal defended him in this). Can you imagine the Fox News response if someone had said that about Bush? Despite the conservative alarm at liberals not caring about the security of our country, it was a conservative that wanted Osama bin Laden to attack our country.
I will say this, too: I wouldn’t have any reason to be paranoid about President Bush if he didn’t actually lie to us about the reason we went to war with Iraq; if he didn’t try to usurp legislative power with elaborate “signing statements”; if he didn’t have guys like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzalez, Bybee, and Yoo working for him (I know, I know, Tim Geithner. . . but he’s kind of a lesser devil, like Phil, The Prince of Insufficient Light).
Nevertheless, I think my friend has a point. What we tend to see as “flawed” rather than “evil” may often be a product of our own invention, at least in part, and this might apply to even the least partisan, most fair-minded and judicious among us. That’s bad enough, but what’s really scary is that so very many of us these days are deliberately, and gleefully partisan with absolutely no intention of being fair-minded or judicious.Maybe it’s “their” turn to be paranoid. So much for the post-political neo-camelot.