A recent nationwide survey found that a majority of Republicans believe that Obama “sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”
According to the poll, 14 percent of Republicans said that from what they knew of Obama, they thought such allegations were “definitely true”; 38 percent thought the allegations were “probably true.” Meanwhile, 33 percent of Republicans thought they were “probably not true” and 7 percent thought they were “definitely not true.”
Never mind the legitimate ideological differences over economic, education, immigration, and health care policies between conservatives and liberals. This polling, along with the whole right-wing narrative of President Barack Obama being a closet Islamic extremist (who wasn’t born in the U.S.), who wants to destroy the U.S. from the inside out, goes a long way in showing that in much of today’s electorate, there really is no basis for rational debate of the current issues. How can you hold a calm, rational, fact-based discussion about Obama’s policies with someone who believes that Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists (and for many Republicans, this term is synonymous with al-Qaeda)? The answer is you can’t.
And the crazed theories do not stop with Islamic extremism. A few minutes of FOX News will often teach you that Obama is a blood-thirsty communist-socialist whose policies are equal to those of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. No one on FOX News has been more diligent in making those comparisons to Obama than Glenn Beck. Anyone who has studied political science and understands the actual definition of socialism realizes the vast differences between Obama’s policies and socialism. That’s a long story and perhaps will be the subject of another post. Nonetheless, in making these socialism comparisons, I love how the most brutal dictators of the last century are invoked. FOX News pundits would not arouse the conservative base if they compared Obama to say, Chancellor Merkel, Former Prime Minister Brown, or President Berlusconi, whose countries’ policies are much closer to the true definition of socialism (but still not that close) than the U.S.
The 93 percent of Republicans who believe that it is “definitely true,” “probably true,” or even “probably not true” (meaning there is still a chance) that President Obama sympathizes with Muslim extremists who want to impose Shari’a law globally, need to find a way to connect with reality, or they are guilty of some severe intellectual dishonesty.
It is one thing to question the President’s policies based on one’s political ideals. We all should be encouraged to develop our own informed view of our President’s policies. And contrary to what I was told by many conservatives during the Bush years, there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with our President (they always invoked “Commander-in-Chief” in explaining why it was inappropriate to disagree with Bush). It is an entirely different thing to question his loyalty to and love of our country. There is absolutely no basis for these kinds of crazed theories being attached to President Obama. In many cases, it is nothing more than veiled bigotry or racism.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently stated that the best way to understand President Obama, as the president “is so outside our comprehension” that you can only understand him “if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.” Gingrich was commenting on an article written by right-wing extremist Dinesh D’Souza, who compared Obama to his Kenyan father in an article in Forbes Magazine, stating, “incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.” Never mind that Obama never really knew his father as his father left him and his mother when Obama was age two. Gingrich and D’Souza have descended into baseless, deceitful, fear-mongering.
A recent article in the New York Times, which explored conservatives’ ongoing efforts to create and define Obama’s “otherness,” pointed out that, per these efforts, “Mr. Obama’s alleged sympathy for so-called Muslim extremists who would desecrate the World Trade Center site, his socialist African ancestry and his early years in Indonesia — all of this creates a shadowy archetype that every conservative enclave, fiscal, foreign policy and religious, can find a reason to fear.”
So in considering all of this, it is no wonder why only 7% of Republicans believe it is definitely not true that Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law throughout the world. This kind narrative of President Obama’s “otherness” is being supported by some of the most prominent conservatives politicians and has the backing of many conservative special interest groups. From the accusations that Obama was not born in the U.S., and the assertions that he is (or was) secretly a Muslim, to Gingrich’s latest pontification about Obama’s “Kenyan anticolonial behavior,” conservatives are doing anything but focusing on the issues that matter most to Americans. So if you are part of that 7%, I urge you to help ground the other 93% in some semblance of reality when it comes to these attacks. Teach them the difference between attacking the dignity of our President through the spread of these rumors (which is an unpatriotic thing to do) verses critiquing his policies.