Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Spittle Gap

So it's pretty clear that the American right can tap vast resources of maniacal partisanship with which the left just can't compete. Our friends across the aisle just have a larger pool of wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth nut cases willing to do their bidding than we have. There is, if you will, a spittle gap.

This gap seemed to close a bit in the Bush years, when some surveys showed that many liberals believed that Bush was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. But that result always stood as a kind of inexplicable outlier. The real lunatics on the left are pretty much limited to humanities (and a few social science) departments in American universities. Hardly a vast pool of untapped electoral power.

One question that's come to fascinate me this election cycle, however: how vast is the spittle gap? I mean, right now it seems almost unfathomably huge. If you don't believe me, go check out Free Republic, where hardly a screen goes by without some discussion of Obama's secret birth certificate, or a secret tape showing Obama performing a human sacrifice, or some other super-secret blockbuster anti-Obama story being suppressed by the EmEsEm.

But seriously: how crazy are they? Surely we're encountering some of the loonier lunacy, as the really choice bits are picked up by Sadly, No! or some other site and then we all eagerly flock to it and have a good laugh and feel superior and so on. Buuuuut....there does seem to be an awful lot of awfully crazy stuff over there, no? (Speaking of Free Republic, I dashed over there at the end of the last sentence to take a sample. On the first screen: (a) Obama buys his mansion with money from Saddam; (b) L.A. Times still suppressing incriminating Obama video (x2); (c) Obama's affinity for Marxism; (d) similarity between Marxist youth movements and Obama supporters...and many, many more...) You might say: Freeperdom is a concentration of lunatics; yes, but it's a HUGE concentration of lunatics, which is more-or-less the point...

What we need is some kind of actual estimate of right-wing lunacy. You know, something like: 5% of Republicans are utterly insane, 10% are nuts, another 10% are daft...something along those lines. It'd at least let us know what we're up against. Maybe it's not as bad as it seems. Maybe this election is just bringing them out of the woodwork. And, of course, many elements of the right have adopted an electoral strategy of stirring up the crazies. Still, it might be that we're in the midst of a vast experiment, a cornucopia of data about the psyche of the right. Maybe we ought to make good use of it.


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