human behavior

Fear and loathing

Posted in American Culture & Politics by humanb on October 17, 2009

big_govtFrom TPM: Democracy Corps has conducted a focus group of conservative Republicans in Georgia to gauge the nature and intensity of political opposition to the Obama administration. The results are interpreted by liberals, but are startling nonetheless. Full report (pdf) here.

As discussed previously, a ‘delusion‘ is a distortion of belief – specifically, a fixed belief that is false according to what one’s culture holds to be true, and despite evidence to the contrary.

If there were only one man who maintained the beliefs below, we might describe him as suffering from paranoid and persecutory delusions highly developed into a comprehensive delusional system. Since there are many – indeed, a growing community – of people who share these beliefs, we can only describe them as deeply troubled.

I quote liberally from the report below.

Here are the kinds of attitudes this group of conservative Republicans have:

They give the National Rifle Association a 74.3 mean rating on a 100-point scale, and pro-life, anti-abortion groups a mean score of 61.8.  They have extremely low feelings toward gay marriage, rating it even lower than they rate the state of the economy, and almost all – 90 percent – oppose health care reform out of hand.

Here is their overarching view of the Obama administration and themselves:

They believe Obama is deliberately and ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt our country and dramatically expand government control over all aspects of our daily lives. They cast a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of the United States as it was conceived by our founders and developed over the past 200 years…. They readily identify themselves as a minority in this country… whose values are mocked and attacked by a liberal media and class of elites.  They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which sets them apart even more.

And here is a more detailed analysis of the paranoid quality of their thinking:

The conservative Republican base is deeply suspicious of Obama’s political success and true motivations…  They feel their greatest fears are being realized, and they do not understand the lack of outcry from the rest of the country.

Four central pillars support their beliefs:

Pillar #1 – Deception and a Hidden Agenda
Only 6 percent of these conservative Republican base voters say that Obama is on their side… they explicitly believe he is purposely and ruthlessly executing a hidden agenda to weaken and ultimately destroy the foundations of our country….

Closely related to this well-established notion of a secret agenda is a hidden set of liberal elites or power brokers who have guided and directed Obama as a puppet, helping him to reach the highest office in the land.  It is simply implausible to them that Obama has reached this position on his own without some greater force at work.

Pillar #2 – Speed
They believe Obama is pushing his agenda at record pace because he does not want the American people to know what he is doing.  The decision to tackle so many major issues at once early in his term is born not out of necessity, but out of secrecy and political calculation.

Pillar #3 – Driving Government to the Brink and Total Control
They believe his policies are purposely designed to fail.  When they look at the totality of his agenda, they see a deliberate effort to drive our country so deep into debt, to make the majority of Americans so dependent on the government, and to strip away so many basic constitutional rights that we are too weak to fight back and have to accept whatever solution he proposes….

Pillar #4 – The Ultimate Goal: Socialism and End to Liberties
There is no doubt in their minds that the ultimate goal of this strategy is to change our country to a socialist nation…. Everything goes back to government control and Obama (aided by Democrats in Congress and the liberal media) seeking to systematically strip away individual rights and insert government into every aspect of our daily lives.

It should be emphasized that race was not a major issue discussed by those surveyed – save with regards to their mounting frustration at being labelled ‘racist’ for criticising Obama’s actions as president.

If these conservatives were clinically paranoid and suffering from a collective psychosis, we could prescribe them all a powerful antipsychotic to good effect.  But these folk aren’t crazy by any clinical definition. I don’t actually think anything can be said or done to rid them of these beliefs.

The only thing that can be done, is for those Republican-leaning voters who overwhelmingly reject this line of thought, to make themselves known in overwhelming numbers in the political sphere. It’s time to put some centrist pressure on Republican politicians to bend to the will of more moderate voices. This survey also included a parallel group of right-leaning independents in Cleveland, who shared their considerably more moderate criticisms of the president.

Liberals are powerless to influence this. They’ve only got two real tools of combat: the vote and the campaign contribution dollar. Vote out the congressional sympathizers to this line of paranoid thinking. But Americans have an embarrassingly low rate of participation in congressional elections.

As embarrassing, is the shallowness of our knowledge on political issues. An August poll of American Attitudes Toward Healthcare Reform showed that only 37% of those surveyed could pick the correct description of “the public option” from a choice of three; while a more recent poll found that only 56% of those surveyed even knew that “the public option” pertained to health care at all.

As per usual, the biggest threat to America, is our own ignorance.

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