Republican Conspiracy Crazies
I have an aversion to conspiracy theories. It has little to do with whether they’re true. Indeed, some things we now consider common knowledge were once conspiracy theories. It has everything to do with the obstacles they create and political reform they undermine.
The murky notion that President Obama is some sort of secret-Kenyan-Muslim-communist is a prevalent fantasy held among some elements on the Right, from the “Birther” movement spurred on by attention-whore Donald Trump to Dinesh D’Souza’s movie “Obama 2016.” Before the election, The American Conservative’s Michael Tracey summarized D’Souza’s sleeper hit: “The central theme of D’Souza’s film is that deep-down, Obama harbors seething hatred for America, and thus his presidency has been designed to bring about its downfall by a host of surreptitious means. It’s a revolting hour-and-a-half of cinema, targeted at the most angst-ridden and pliable Americans looking for answers…”
When I was boarding a plane leaving Tampa after the Republican convention in August, I sat near two men probably in their mid-to-late 50s. Said one man, and I’m paraphrasing: “You know what you need to see? That Obama 2016 movie.” The other man replied, “Oh yeah, I heard that was really good. Gives us a good idea of what we’re really up against.”
It’s no secret what conservatives are “up against” when it comes to Barack Obama. There’s no mystery to it. From unemployment and staggering debt to ObamaCare—the president’s record is as public as it is repugnant.
Pushing conspiracy theories to “explain” Obama’s record undermines the actual awfulness of his record. What if Obama’s policies really are part of some contrived, anti-American agenda—would the president’s big government onslaught somehow be preferable if it were all-American in origin? Is the problem that the policies themselves are bad? They likely aren’t very different from what a President Hillary Clinton—or let’s face it, Mitt Romney—would have pursued. Must conservatives also prove there is some underlying, unpatriotic plot?
No secret motives are needed to explain obvious bad government.
Conservatives are usually on solid ground when they argue against Obama’s damaging policies. They are on even better ground when they can offer attractive policies of their own. But they are on counterproductive and unwinnable ground when they insist that Obama is an anti-colonial, Kenyan, secretly Muslim communist. These arguments not only sound stupid—they aren’t even arguments. The American Conservative’s James Antle captures why such thinking is entirely beside the point: “Is there anything less interesting than the theorizing about why Obama governs as he does? Obama is a liberal, and a fairly banal one at that … Yet there remains a cottage industry of explanations for why a liberal president has compiled a record of generally liberal policy positions, something akin to a discovery process as to why a quarterback is so taken with throwing touchdown passes.”