It goes without saying that Obama’s political opponents would reject any suggestion that they'd treated Obama more unfairly than Democrats treated George Bush. But let’s stipulate to the factual accuracy of the charges the reader enumerates (while reserving judgment about his ultimate evaluation of these putative facts). That still wouldn't make the idea that there’s something especially “sinister” about Republican opposition to the Obama presidency any more intelligible to me.“I hope you['re] kidding. The right has pursued the tactic, from about the middle of the 2008 campaign, that Obama is illegitimate, and not entitled to his office, his position, or even the formal respect nominally the office of the presidency.
“Here is a short list of the litany of charges widely thrown in Obama's direction by the right:
1. Obama was not born in the United States, and is not entitled to be president.
2. Obama is actually a Muslim, only pretending to be a Christian.
3. Obama is a secret Marxist / Socialist / Nazi, whose underlying agenda is actually the destruction--not the promotion--of the interests of the United States.
4. Obama was not legitimately elected: widespread voter fraud by Acorn was sufficient to throw the election (believed by > 30% of registered Republicans).
5. Obama is a blustering incoherent fool, the tool of radicals such as William Ayers, that cannot even form a rational sentence without the help of a Teleprompter.
6. Obama is actually a racist, dedicated to wreaking revenge on white America for slavery. . . .
“None of the above are constrained only to ‘fringe’ political players, but were repeated over and over by mainstream players within the Republican party, and the supporting media infrastructure (Fox News, Limbaugh, former executive branch officials, etc.)”
“This is a fundamentally different tactic than that taken by the left with respect to Republican presidencies. They generally took the form of ‘Bush is dumb,’ or ‘Bush lied to push policies that the public would not have otherwise supported,’ or ‘the Republicans are so vested in the evils of government that they cannot run a functional one.’ . . .
“What the conservatives have done is considerably more sinister. From Day One of the Obama administration, they have made a determined, sustained, and concerted effort to hollow out the president, the respect that is shown towards him, and the essential legitimacy of government, even in times of opposition.”
People believe all kinds of implausible political things. Pollsters tell us that a significant number of people think that the government of the United States is covering up the fact that we’re routinely visited by UFOs, that the Bush administration had something to do with 9/11 and, yes, that the circumstances of Barack Obama’s birth disqualify him from the presidency. Yet the fact that some people in any political coalition have crazy beliefs doesn’t make it civically irresponsible for politicians to represent that coalition's political preferences. In a representative democracy we expect entrepreneurial politicians to process inchoate public sentiment into a public will by presenting voters with a series of binary choices between political alternatives. The record of the voters' preferences over successive elections constitutes the definitive evidence about what ultimately counts as public opinion about political alternatives.
So we can’t understand how popular opinion informs the political process without distinguishing pertinent information about the distribution of political preferences among the electorate from distracting noise. I’ve commented before on the voluminous, and as far as I can tell unprecedented, polling data that substantially more voters oppose than support nearly all of Obama's signature policies less than two years after his election. Moreover, the results of a series of elections since 2008, most notably the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat on the promise that he’d oppose ObamaCare, suggest that the unpopularity of Obama’s agenda isn’t just an artifact of polling techniques or the last news cycle. All of this sounds to me like the makings of a pretty definitive explanation of Obama’s present unpopularity.
When Russ Feingold suggests that Obama’s unpopularity is explained less by the unpopularity of his agenda than by the operation of economic forces outside his control and a sinister Republican disinformation campaign, he’s saying that the voluminous evidence that most voters don’t like Obama’s policies is just distracting noise. The real information, he suggests, is that shameful Republican disinformation campaign has taken hold of public opinion despite Obama's having had every opportunity to rebut it.
That’s an awfully convenient thing for liberals to believe, especially if we're determined not to contemplate the possibility that Obama's agenda is a lot less popular than we thought and hoped it is. I still don’t get why anyone who took a deep breath could really think that this thesis about the unreality of genuine opposition to Obama's policies is more plausible than, say, the notion that Obama secretly adheres to the ideology of Williams Ayers.