We live in a time of antagonistic politics. Fifty years ago, John Wayne said of John Kennedy, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.” Two years ago, Rush Limbaugh said of Barack Obama, “I hope he fails.”
“Our politics are being hijacked by a comparatively small number of people who seek to dominate the debate by screaming the loudest. … Fear is their favorite tactic as they try to divide and conquer. … The attack of the Wingnuts is an assault on the idea that what unites us is greater than what divides us as Americans…” (21)
Avlon identifies “Obama Derangement Syndrome - pathological hatred of the president often mistaken for healthy patriotism.” (42) (A similar syndrome was diagnosed during the recent Bush years.) It is fed by hyper-partisan talk radio and web sites.
Avalon thoroughly investigates this current atmosphere of hate politics. He interviewed a Southern Baptist pastor praying for the president’s death. He spoke to self-styled theologians convinced Obama is the Antichrist. Some accuse Obama of being a communist, a fascist, or a Nazi. When Avlon spoke to people in the American Communist party or the Nazi party, he found over and over that none of the avowed communists or Nazis thought Obama was even close to their ideologies.
Are we seeing the birth of white minority politics, the resistance of social change propelled by resentment of multiculturalism?
I think Avlon has explained how (and why) the right wing (Christian conservative) branch of politics has become one of hate. His is a sobering report that should be read by all.
Avlon does remind us that the group rhetoric is not as dangerous as is the lone gunman incited by that rhetoric. Presidential assassins (and Timothy McVeigh) have not been members of militia groups but have been influenced by their ranting.
Avlon ends his book by suggesting that centrists declare their independence from the far right and far left. Re-enter the dialogue with faith in the American political system. Stand up against the extremes.
Beast Books, 244 pages.