This is the mainstream of the modern-day Republican Party. We now know this not just from the weekend convention, but because I commissioned nonpartisan pollster Research 2000 to ask a battery of questions to slightly more than 2,000 self-identified Republicans (for a margin of error of 2 percent) to get a handle on exactly what they believed. Among the findings:
• 36 percent believed Obama was not born in the United States, while 22 percent were not sure. A minority — 42 percent — believed he was native-born.
• 63 percent believed Obama was a socialist; just 21 percent disagreed.
• 24 percent agreed that Obama wants the terrorists to win, while 33 percent were not sure. A 43 percent minority disagreed.
• 21 percent believed the community group ACORN stole the 2008 presidential election, while 55 percent were not sure. Just 24 percent thought the ludicrous notion was ludicrous.
• 53 percent believed that Palin was more qualified to be president than Obama. Just 14 percent disagreed.
• 31 percent believed Obama is “a racist who hates white people,” while 33 percent were not sure. Just 36 percent disagreed.
• 23 percent wanted their state to secede from the United States, while 58 percent did not. The secession numbers were particularly high in the South, where 33 percent wanted out, and a bare majority — 52 percent — disagreed.
Republicans reacted to the poll with surprising anger. “Now, if you believe that poll, you also believe Nancy Pelosi once dated Dick Cheney,” said Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly in an unfortunate stab at humor. Such sentiments were typical of Republicans.
This outrage is nothing short of bizarre. I chose these questions because they represented the core of the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Tea Party messaging the past year. Why would O’Reilly mock the notion that most Republicans thought Obama was a socialist, when O’Reilly himself has called Obama a socialist or worse — a communist? Why would Republicans pretend that a significant chunk of their base doesn’t believe that ACORN stole the election, when Glenn Beck himself has led the charge against the organization that focuses on low-income housing and registering the working poor to vote? And why wouldn’t they believe that Obama was racist against white people, when Beck and Limbaugh have made that very charge countless times?
Rather than be embarrassed by these results, Fox News and the rest of the conservative movement should be ecstatic. Their message is getting through! People believe all the crazy things they’ve been told to believe! And really, the reason conservatives are so engaged and desperate for November to arrive is because they’ve been led to believe that Obama is an illegitimate racist communist who wants the terrorists to win. That’s scary stuff, and yes, very, very motivating.
But it’s clear they want such beliefs to stay within their family. It’s hard to pretend to the outside world that you are a mainstream movement representing average Americans when your followers are actually conspiracy-mongers and strident ideologues.
Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).