The Paranoid Style Is Alive and Well in Some Conservative Quarters

At least this is the response you'll get from many who claim they don't really believe Obama is evil. But again, the reality of politics raises its ugly head and begs the question: what politician in their right mind would do all of this and then ask the American people for another term?

A president who knowingly creates conditions that make his re-election nearly impossible? It has the virtue of never having been tried in American politics before, probably for good reason: it would lead to humiliating defeat.

Instead, we are confronted with the ridiculous and pathetic evidence that the president and his advisors have advanced policies believing that they would create millions of jobs, reduce the deficit eventually, solve our health care crisis, give capitalism a "human face" by polishing off the rough edges, and make America stronger by turning our enemies into friends. Ascribing evil intent to stupidity, incompetence, ignorance, and cynical calculation is beyond irrational. It is paranoia born of excessive partisan animus.

A branch of this paranoia has to do with the belief of many on the right that the president is following a "strategy" set down by the satanic duo of Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, who advanced the theory in a Nation article in 1966 that if every single American eligible for welfare payments would apply, it would overwhelm the system and force the Democratic Party to pass a guaranteed national income. That's it. No treatise on how to start a Marxist revolution. No blueprint for a commie takeover. Just a cockamamie idea about how to goose the less radical Democrats in Congress to pass a bill that would give every American a guaranteed income.

Prominent conservatives like Glenn Beck latched on to this theory and after a little shaking and baking, came up with the idea that Cloward-Piven could be applied to the entire government; that what Obama was really trying to do was overwhelm the system with debt and dependency, thus opening the door to a Marxist dictatorship. How Beck extrapolated all of that from the idiotic notions of two far left liberals about welfare is a mystery. It is certainly a mystery to the authors, who never imagined that their article would be used 40 years later to "explain" President Obama's evil intent.

How widespread is this belief? No one has done much polling on the question of Obama's deliberate destruction of America using the Cloward-Piven "strategy," but given that 51% of likely Republican primary voters think Obama is a "foreigner," it could easily be extrapolated that a significant number of conservatives believe this twaddle.

It is also probable that a similar number on the right believe that Obama is following a game plan authored by New Left godfather Saul Alinsky, whose Rules for Radicals outlines tactics in community organizing and grassroots politics used to start the revolution. It is unknown what old Saul would think of Obama cuddling up to Wall Street bankers and other fat cats, but those particular characteristics shown by the president throughout his term are nowhere to be found in Alinsky's simple-minded notions of how to move the masses. Much of the advice in Rules is basic common sense and tactics used in grassroots organizing since forever.

Obama may very well be using strategies employed in Rules for Radicals, but given how commonplace those strategies are, how can anyone rationally conclude that he is somehow held in thrall to Alinksy's treatise as a consequence of his radicalism?

Richard Hofstadter, author of the famous essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," (who George Will correctly referred to as "the iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension"), was fascinated with how conspiracy theories and other paranoid fantasies emerged in American politics. The historian, who later in life moved to the right in his politics, described, in general terms, the mind set that made paranoia and politics such an incendiary combination:

Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention.

This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began...

I will leave to the reader's imagination the modern day equivalent of the paranoid from the early 1960s. He is easily seen in those who oppose the president and his programs based not on logic and reason, but on fear, and on the wrongheaded belief that one's political opponent harbors evil intent toward the nation.