Saturday, I opened my IBJ to read a truly paranoid rant from Greg Morris, the publisher, who has a weekly opinion column. Mr. Morris is clearly one of those Second Amendment folks who views his right to bear arms with religious fervor, and his embrace of “one nation, armed to the teeth” was unsettling enough. But what really set the warning bells off was his full-throated embrace of one of the many conspiracy theories that have persisted since the election of Barack Obama: “they’re coming for our guns!”
Mr. Morris was unable to point to a single fact supporting this fantasy. It was the usual “everyone knows” and “someone said” rant–the Obama administration is “just waiting for the second term” and then they’ll confiscate your weapons!
I was shocked to see this garbage in the staid IBJ, a publication focused on the business community, and one of the few media outlets that still fact-checks and reports.But it reminded me of an observation someone made about the Republican primary–that the GOP candidates are running against a fictional President.
The criticisms of Obama from the left–and there have been plenty of them–tend to fault him for specific policy decisions. He has failed to dismantle Bush’s security apparatus; his administration defended the killing of an American citizen working with the terrorists, without a trial or other due process. Agree or not with those criticisms (and I do), they are specific and tangible.
The criticisms from the Right, however, rarely focus on something the President actually did. Other than the hated “Obamacare” (which very few people who want it repealed seem to understand) and pious hand-wringing over the national debt (inconveniently created by George W. Bush), most of the accusations seem to be the products of fevered imaginations: Obama is a “socialist” who wants to make the U.S. into Europe; Obama hates white people; Obama is a Kenyan Muslim fascist; Obama wants to confiscate our guns….
I read “The Audacity of Hope” during the 2008 campaign. I agreed with almost everything in it–because the positions outlined were very much the same positions I held (and continue to hold) when I ran for Congress in 1980 as a moderate Republican. If there is one mistake today’s Left and Right hold in common, its the belief that Obama ran as some sort of raging liberal. He didn’t, he wasn’t, and he isn’t.
The absolute hysteria on the Right can’t be explained by Obama’s actual policies. Unlike the situation with George W. Bush, who didn’t arouse intense animosity until he’d actually done things, the irrational hatred of Obama began the day he was elected.
We seem to have two Presidents, the actual man we elected, and a fictional “boogeyman.” And while race doesn’t explain all of that, it explains a hell of a lot.