02.03.10

The Scary, Growing GOP Fringe

A new poll shows how the wingnut fringe is morphing into rank-and-file Republicanism. John Avlon dissects the results on Obama, gays—and secession. Avlon is the author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America.

A new poll shows how the wingnut fringe is morphing into rank-and-file Republicanism. John Avlon dissects the results on Obama, gays—and secession. Avlon is the author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America.

Plus, read more on Avlon’s new book.

If you wanted more evidence that the fringe is blurring with the base, you’ve got it.

A new poll conducted by Research 2000 and commissioned by the liberal activist site DailyKos found that:

* 63% of Republicans believe Barack Obama is a socialist.
* 39% of Republicans believe he should be impeached.
* 36% believe he was not born in the United States (22% are not sure)
* 31% believe he is “a racist who hates White people”
* 24% believe President Obama “wants the terrorists to win” (33% are not sure)
* 23% say they want their state to secede from the Union.

And that’s not all—wade into the culture war issues of gay civil rights, abortion and the role of religion in society in the poll and things get even more discouraging/validating, depending on your perspective.

When it comes to the question “should openly gay men and women be allowed to teach in public schools,” 73% say no.

Liberals are ecstatic about these poll results because it confirms the worst stereotypes of their political opponents. But there is little to really cheer here. It captures the cost of increasingly hyper-partisan politics and media that I detail in my new book Wingnuts – an angry echo-chamber that uses hate as a cheap and easy recruiting tool.

John Avlon: The Tea Party’s 5 Key Players Unhinged anger at presidents of the opposing party isn’t exclusive to the right: Before the explosion of Obama Derangement Syndrome we had Bush Derangement Syndrome. It’s worth remembering that in 2007, a Rasmussen poll found that 35% of Democrats said that Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, while 26% were not sure.

But this new poll shows an acceleration of polarization. It is a problem that has metastasized. And as I get ready to head down to the Tea Party Convention in Nashville, we’ll see whether the unhinged anger is confirmed, contradicted or condoned. I’ve traced the Tea Party movement from its fiscal conservative beginnings to the increased influence of conservative activists taking a page from the far-left’s Rules for Radicals’ playbook of street theater protests and the politics of confrontation. The Tea Partiers consider themselves patriots, but it remains unclear how thinking that the duly elected president wants terrorists to win is in any way patriotic. It’s a reflection of the condition that’s lead to some activists to confuse losing an election with living under tyranny.

book-cover---wingnuts
Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. By John Avlon. 304 pages. Beast Books. $15.95. ()

Footnote: Obviously, DailyKos is a questionable source for such a damning poll, so I looked skeptically at the methodology. It seems sound – more than 2,000 people were surveyed by telephone over the last 10 days of January. The questions, while geared toward confirming the worst stereotypes, were presented straightforwardly. Looking through the cross-tabs, young Republicans were not significantly more liberal-to-libertarian on most issues – and those age 30 to 44 seem particularly radicalized against President Obama. There has been actual erosion on issues: When it comes to the question “should openly gay men and women be allowed to teach in public schools,” 73% say no. This is a fall back from Ronald Reagan’s principled opposition to a similar state ballot proposition in the 1970s, which was covered in the movie Milk. Other stereotypes were unfortunately reinforced, such as the social conservatism of the South, even reaching unhelpfully to questions of secession, where 33% said their state should consider going back down the road that led to 600,000 Americans dead in the Civil War.

John Avlon’s new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America is available now by Beast Books both on the Web and in paperback. Advance orders can be placed here. He is also the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.