If its findings are accurate, a poll released this week should embarrass and shame Republican politicians and party leaders. It probably won’t, though, because if we’ve learned anything about the GOP in the past 20 years is that it can be pretty shameless.
** 63 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a socialist
** 68 percent believe gay couples shouldn’t receive any state or federal benefits
** 73 percent don’t want to allow openly gay men and women to teach in public schools
** 76 percent believe marriages aren’t equal partnerships and that men are the heads of households
** 53 percent believe former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama
** 39 percent believe Obama should be impeached
** 36 percent believe Obama was not born in the United States
** 24 percent believe Obama wants "the terrorists to win”
** 23 percent believe that their state should secede from the United States
Presumably that last figure includes Palin’s husband, Todd, a member of the Alaska Independence Party.
Some Republican officials have questioned the poll’s accuracy because it was done for The Daily Kos, the popular progressive blog run by Markos “Kos” Moulitsas. But Moulitsas hired a firm, Research 2000, which has a good reputation for its work.
In this case, a telephone survey was conducted Jan. 20-31. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.
The results are the proud legacy of people like former Nixon aide and current Fox News President Roger Ailes, George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove and the late Lee Atwater, who advised Ronald Reagan and Dubya’s father. Those GOP strategists knew some people revel in their ignorance, and they helped exploit that attitude in the name of electoral victories.
Most Americans tend to forget history, but this trend began after Democratic President Lyndon Johnson pushed Congress to approve the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which angered southern white racists. Beginning with the 1966 mid-term election, Republicans tapped into that frustration with the party’s infamous “Southern Strategy.”
As Atwater explained in a book interview:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can't say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now (that) you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is (that) blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’”
The modern day equivalent of this strategy is the Tea Party movement, which has revived the once discredited mantle of “states’ rights.”
Regardless, Republican officials who don’t believe the poll’s results should have themselves and their allies state unequivocally and publicly that Obama was born in the United States and is not a socialist who wants terrorists to win. (Are you listening, Jean Schmidt?)
Most Republicans won’t, of course, because they benefit from polarization. How sad.
If nothing else, maybe the poll’s findings will nudge Obama into refocusing on the agenda that got him elected and stop bending over backward in pursuit of elusive bipartisanship.
As Sam Stein put it on The Huffington Post, “How does a Republican lawmaker explain to his or her die-hard base that it is important to work on legislation with a racist, socialist president who is illegally holding office only because of the help of ACORN?”