The Republican Party has invested years of effort in trying to depict Barack Hussein Obama as unAmerican and far outside the mainstream. And while the notion lies at the very dark heart of the birther movement peddled by clowns such Donald Trump and Orly Taitz, it has been pushed hard by top party leaders as well.
When Newt Gingrich accuses Obama of “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior,” when John Sununu wishes Obama “would learn to be American,” and when Mitt Romney himself complains that Obama’s “course is extraordinarily foreign,” they’re all attempting to define Obama out of the American mainstream. The arguments stands at the core of their anti-Obama strategy.
The videotape of the Texas judge warning that if re-elected, Obama would lead a military takeover by the United Nations makes it clear that the notion has taken hold among those who are themselves on the fringes of sanity, but we already knew that. The question is, how deeply has that meme penetrated among ordinary Americans?
In their newly released poll, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal asked the question straight out: “When it comes to his approaches to issues, would you say that Barack Obama is in the mainstream of Americans’ thinking, or is out of step with most Americans’ thinking?”
Fifty-four percent of Americans thought of Obama as within the American mainstream, while 44 percent thought he was not. When the same question was asked four years ago, just 29 percent thought of Obama as outside the mainstream. So clearly, the GOP drive to define Obama as unAmerican has had some success.
But at what price? In addition to Obama, the pollsters asked the same question about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Joe Biden and candidates for Congress. Here’s what they found:
Obama, it turns out, is considered the most mainstream of any of those mentioned, followed by Democratic candidates for office. More than half of Americans consider Mitt Romney out of the mainstream, while four years ago just 41 percent said the same about John McCain.
On the other hand, those who have been most adamant about Barack Obama’s lack of credentials as a real American — Republican candidates for Congress — are today considered mainstream by just 38 percent of their fellow Americans. And it is largely an image earned on merit, by their own rhetoric and actions.
By the way, the poll was taken Aug. 16-20, largely before U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s little rant about “legitimate rape” became such a big story. I suspect that may have pushed the congressional GOP even deeper into crackpot territory in the eyes of American voters.
Barack Obama, gliding safely down the mainstream, while the self-styled defenders of the American way find themselves circling in a back eddy, going nowhere … I admit, there’s an irony in that outcome that I find both delicious and reassuring.
– Jay Bookman