Obama Derangement Syndrome?

I'd say if you live in the United States of America and you vote for George Bush, you've lost your mind. -- John Edwards

When does the legitimate “I oppose Obama” descend into the illegitimate “I hate Obama"?

It is popular now to suggest that conservatives in general and congressional Republicans in particular suffer from an obsession characterized by an uncontrolled antipathy for Barack Obama -- personal and visceral -- that warps their entire political outlook. No doubt some do experience the same obsessions that infected the Left in their furor at George W. Bush. One can find unhinged posters at anti-Obama rallies similar to those at anti-Bush demonstrations. Bloggers can show hatred for Obama in the manner one found them despising Bush. Perhaps for Howard Dean's rants about Bush's supposed foreknowledge of 9/11, we have Donald Trump insisting on a fraudulent Obama birth certificate. Truthers are analogous to Birthers. And for every conspiracy theory that Bush was continuing a long family tradition of profiting from Nazi trade, there was a suggestion that Obama was a Manchurian candidate planted here by Islamic interests to destroy from the inside the United States.

But again, I am not talking about conspiracy rants and raves, but a general psychiatric affliction that infects the influential political class -- politicians, journalists, and those in popular culture and the arts.

So how does one distinguish natural political opposition from a psychotic state? In other words, when will we know that popular opposition to Obama’s worldview and a dislike at the way he seeks to divide the country degenerate into the paranoid venom that was unleashed against Bush?

Here are some things to watch on the national scene to warn us:

1) Assassination Talk

Watch it when opposition to Obama evokes thoughts of assassination and is not countenanced by the conservative community. In other words, be on guard for the conservative equivalents of a Gabriel Range’s Death of a President -- a docudrama imagining a hit on Barack Obama. Especially important is to note any positive reaction to such hatred, like a first-place award from the Toronto Film Festival.

And do not forget novels. We are in trouble when a mainstream New York publisher (say, an Alfred A. Knopf) publishes a novel in which characters fantasize about shooting Barack Obama -- in the manner of Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint. Important here, then, is the reaction to such expression of murderous hate. Keep on guard for a conservative Michael Moore who might suggest that 9/11-like mass murder is appropriate for Obama supporters (“If someone did this [9/11] to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who did not vote for him!”) or who might resort to teen-age trash-talking, such as “What I meant to say is that George W. Bush is a deserter, an election thief, a drunk driver, a WMD liar, and a functional illiterate. And he poops his pants."

The point is not that there won’t be conservative deranged equivalents to Moore, but to watch whether such demonic figures are fully embedded within the conservative political establishment. If one were to substitute Obama for Bush in Michael Moore’s rants, would he then be invited as a guest of honor to the Republican National Convention? If so, we would have a good example of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Note too the spread of Obama tics into the entertainment industry: do Hollywood celebrities routinely in their award acceptance speeches, performances, and interviews interrupt to blast Obama in the obsessive manner of a Barbra Streisand, Matt Damon, Sean Penn, or Dixie Chicks?

2) Nazi Talk

Watch the Nazi analogies from public figures; they are good evidence of psychosis. Are there anti-Obama zealots like an Al Gore, John Glenn, or Garrison Keillor who without rebuke compare Barack Obama to a brownshirt or Nazi? If they do so, and go unchallenged, then opposition to Obama may be reaching afflictive levels.