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Harris Poll Suggests 24% of Republicans Think Obama is the Antichrist (and More)

Virtually all reports of this trace back to John Avlon at The Daily Beast (nothing against TDB, I just like to make sure that there are corroborating sources as much as possible, especially when the one source stands to directly benefit from the spread of the news), so I'd like it to have that context when the news arrives here.  The author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America cites a Harris poll as saying that significant numbers of Republicans (and even notable numbers of Americans) hold beliefs that President Barack Obama is or could be a domestic enemy.

He sums from the poll:

  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was “not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president”
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”
  • Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama “may be the Antichrist.”

The poll of 2,230 people was reportedly taken at the height of the health care reform debate.

As a Canadian, I try to avoid commenting on American politics, but the gradual tide of the last year and a half (or decade and a half, depending on how you look at it) has been striking several chords with me. Not to mention that Canada is deeply influenced by and often closely follows American social trends.

I grew up in a Fundamentalist household, and so for a political leader to be called the “Antichrist” is really not new to me.  At one point, I remember that my mom believed that Jimmy Carter was the Antichrist.  Other contenders for the title were Moammar Ghadaffi, John Lennon, Ayatollah Khomeini, L. Ron Hubbard, the Pope, and Prince. Normally, I'd see it as “ho-hum.”

What seems to be different to me in this case is the convergence of nationalism, corporatism and Christianism with a distinctly militant zeal shaping this moment in time. The point may be driven home by my mother's shifting perspective up to the last time she and I spoke.

That doesn't mean that America is predestined to follow any particular pattern, but there is a danger if not taken seriously and if political strategists and spokespeople don't wake up to what they're cultivating.  While the numbers given here indicate a bloc of people who believe that Obama “may be the Antichrist” and don't distinguish how many have taken that to the point of believing that he “is the Antichrist,” there is a growing change in the attitudes and actions of those inclined to believe the latter.

I don't intend this as yet another comparison to Naziism, because I suspect that any ideology taken to its furthest extreme can be dangerous.  But while I grew up in the 1970s, our neighbours living next door shared their story of coming to Canada during the rise of Hitler.  They were a German couple originally living in Austria (she had Jewish heritage), and eloquently recounted how at the time of the Nazi rise to power, they had heard a lot of initial complacency from their friends and relatives in Austria, feeling that by virtue of a border, they were relatively insulated from that movement.  They weren't comfortable with that and applied to move to Canada — finally getting approval to do so just before Krystallnacht (the flashpoint that sparked open aggression against Jews) and Anschluss (the annexation of Austria) shortly before WWII.  Those they left behind weren't so lucky.

Socialist?  So what if he is? (although it doesn't help that the general public doesn't understand what socialism is and can't tell the difference from fascism)

Muslim?  So what if he is? (although the growing perception that Muslims are enemies underscores a religious bias in politics that shouldn't be there if seperation of Church and State were meant to be any more significant than a way to protect churches from paying taxes).

The remaining numbers are not so easily dismissed, however.  The 49th parallel seems disturbingly close, sometimes….

(Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes)

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