Gene Lyons, one of the few highlights on the Joplin Globe‘s editorial pages these days, expressed an opinion about our fellow citizens that many are afraid to utter:
…much of the electorate is so poorly informed that it’s a wonder our political system works as well as it does, which many think is hardly at all.
Recently, CNN released a poll showing that 86 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government is “broken.” I admit my first reaction was to wonder subversively, “How would they know?” A contemporaneous Pew survey of the public’s “political news IQ” showed that on one of the most heavily reported issues of 2009-10, only 32 percent knew that the Senate health-care bill passed without a single Republican vote; 26 percent understood that a supermajority of 60 votes is required to break a GOP filibuster. In short, they haven’t got a clue.
Referencing New York Times reporter David Barstow’s article on Tea Party people, in which the reporter interviews disgruntled citizens who make up the anti-government movement, Lyons reminds us that,
Paranoia blooms whenever Democrats take power in Washington. Remember militiamen fearful of U.N. black helicopters during Bill Clinton’s first term?
Yes, I do. But I think the kind of paranoia that has blossomed under Obama has additional shadings, shall we say, than the Ruby Ridge- and Waco-inspired militia nonsense back then. Beyond the black helicopter crowd, Clinton was seen as a cunning womanizer and political opportunist, even as a murder-ordering political opportunist, but wasn’t, as far as I remember, seriously charged with wanting to destroy the country, as part of an exotic plot to colonize America for Communism.
Beyond the goofy claims that Obama is a socialist—which don’t just come from marginalized extremists in the GOP, but from what passes for mainstream Republicans these days—Obama has been accused of hating America and wanting it to fail so he can implement his real agenda: a complete overhaul of our political and economic system along Marxist contours.
I don’t think Bill Clinton was earnestly characterized as an active Communist sympathizer, even when Republicans took a break from fixating on his sex life. But even if he was, it certainly wasn’t done by serious politicians in the GOP.
And nobody referred to Bill Clinton in mockingly Messianic terms, the way Hannity and Limbaugh refer to Obama—without objection from conservative Christians, by the way.
So, Lyons is right to remark that during times of Democratic ascendancy, the paranoid right-wing manufactures conspiracies about Democratic plans faster than Fox “News” can report them. But this time, under America’s first African-American president, who has a strange name and a culturally diverse background, things are a little different, if not a lot worse.