Some weeks ago I argued that the vituperative criticism of Obama from the right was not, as some suggested, driven by racism but was the result of the right wing being nuts. Not nuts in the sense that they disagree with me, but nuts in that they increasingly subscribe to paranoid fantasies untethered to the real world as anyone else perceives it.
During my long illness I got an email from Democracy Corps, the polling firm co-owned by James Carville, linking to a report that reaches the same conclusion based on at least semi-scientific investigation. They ran focus groups of older white non-college educated conservative Republicans in Georgia, asking about Obama, health care, the economy and other basic issues. And as a control they ran similar focus groups with independents with similar demographics in suburban Cleveland. This second group they identify as the most conservative swing voter bloc.
The first finding they emphasize is that the participants persuaded them that race is not the basis for their nearly universal loathing of Obama. You can question this study based on the bias of the investigators, but this is a hard conclusion to dispute. After all, the easy and advantageous (for Dems) conclusion would be that anti-Obama conservatives are just a bunch of unreconstructed bigots. That they find the opposite certainly is a credible finding and gives extra credence to the project generally.
The more significant finding is that the ultraconservative Republicans live in a different world from the rest of us -- even from the conservative independents from Cleveland:
- The self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party stand a world apart from the rest of America, according to focus groups conducted by Democracy Corps. These base Republican voters dislike Barack Obama to be sure – which is not very surprising as base Democrats had few positive things to say about George Bush – but these voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism. While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country’s founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail.
My personal favorite -- because it's so counterfactual -- that Obama started the road to socialism by bailing out the banks. Yes Obama is so diabolical that he orchestrated the bank bailout before he even took office!. Scary.
As I said in my previous post, it's a manifestly bad thing that some twenty percent of the electorate is bonkers. Additionally, I think its incumbent on us non-crazy, reality-based folk to continually point this out.
The media coverage of the ravings from the right repeatedly falls into the false equivalency trap -- let's find someone nutty on the left for balance. (The occasional blogger will fall into this as well.) But the nutty left doesn't affect the course of the Democratic party. Hell, we're lucky if they vote.
The hardcore right described in the report comprise the grassroots foot soldiers of the Republican party. They are the ones who do things like run party moderate out of elections -- and the party. As such, the crazies in the Republican party have real influence on one of the only two real parties in our democracy.