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The ACORN Derangement Syndrome Goes Viral

When you've been away from blogging, and from regular access to political news, for more or less a month, as I have, there's a lot of stuff to catch up on. But I have to say, the thing I missed that amazes me the most, while confirming some of my own uncharitable fears about conservatives, was last week's PPP poll showing that a majority of self-identified Republicans think the struggling and marginal grassroots organization ACORN stole the 2008 election for Barack Obama.

Matt Compton, Adam Serwer and Eric Kleefield all offered some thoughts on this poll. But I somehow don't think most progressives are fully grasping the centrality of ACORN to the conservative world-view these days.

I've written about this several times over the last thirteen months, but bear with me: ACORN has assumed an all-purpose demonic role for Republicans. They were, in the lurid view of Fox News enthusiasts (embraced on at least one occasion by the McCain-Palin ticket) the cause of the mortgage crisis and the financial meltdown, thanks to the alleged help they provided to shiftless people to obtain mortgages they couldn't or wouldn't pay. They then demanded bailouts for their clients. And because a whole lotta socialism was necessary to keep them afloat, they stole the election for their close ally Barack Obama. Coincidentally, of course, and irrelevant to the narrative of ACORN running the country, was the fact that the group is one of the most visibily minority-oriented organizations in national public life.

The fact that there is virtually no empirical evidence for any of these contentions about ACORN (particularly the election-stealing stuff, which is an absolute hallucination by any standard) hasn't much mattered; the group was far, far too convenient a scapegoat for everything that displeased conservatives since September of 2008.

But in talking about this so many times, it never really occured to me that a majority of Republicans bought into the ACORN Derangement Syndrome, with only a quarter of them rejecting the idea that this group stole the 2008 elections. Analogizing this to the Democratic reaction to Florida 2008 is ludicrous; Gore did win the popular vote, Florida was incredibly disputed, and the Supreme Court did shut down the recount to get Bush across the finish line. There is not a shred of evidence that Obama didn't legitimately and decisively win the election, and no significant Republican spokesman doubted it at the time. It took a full year conservative shrieking about ACORN to instill this crazy theory into the consciousness of rank-and-file Republican, nicely validating their hatred of Obama, their bizarre claims that he's some sort of totalitarian revolutionary determined to destroy the Constitution.

It's a case history in viral demagoguery of the most toxic sort, and reputable Republicans should be even more upset about it than I am.

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You try to ride the tiger and you end up inside. The Republicans wanted the segregationists, the black helicopter people, the fundamentalist crazies. To get them and keep them, they pandered to them. They encouraged segregated private schools, and religious schools and home schooling. They made a whole generation stupider than it would have been if it had stayed in public schools, and now that's their base -- stupid people. People who believe (like the current frontrunner Huckabee) that there's no such thing as evolution. People who say the New Deal prolonged the Depression. People who say Johnson killed Kennedy. People who say Obama was born in Kenya. People who say we're starting concentration camps, or planning to exterminate old people. People who shoot abortion doctors or shoot up the Holocaust Museum or demand that all Muslim staffers and pages and interns be banned from Capitol Hill. They have sowed the dragons' teeth, and now they, like the rest of us, will have to face the fire.

Republicans are buying into the latter-day equivalent of the "stab in the back" derangement in Germany in the 20's in Acorn, birther, death panel, etc., derangements.. And look what that got us in the 30's.. Bipartisanship/compromise is also a derangement by those who negotiate with groups whose main goal is your destruction/demise.
The Obama administration does not really appear to recognize this reality. " Peace in our time" -- or reasonable health care, climate change legislation, etc. is NOT produced in such negotiations.

Another reason for demonizing ACORN is the need for the paranoid Right to find a new scapegoat to blame everything bad on, since their former all-purpose demon, the Communist Party, is defunct and cannot be seen by anyone as a real threat. These folks with their Manichean mindset must find someone to blame for the mess they're in since they're incapable of looking in a mirror and it looks like, for now, it's ACORN. Look for the demonizing to continue until a new demon emerges. Any bets as to who that could be?

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