Why it’s not possible to reason with the Right

Author John Avlon (Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America) reports on a truly mind-boggling survey of Republican voters just released by Harris.

  • 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
  • Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama “may be the Antichrist.”
  • The belief that Obama is a “domestic enemy” is widely held—a sign of trouble yet to come.

  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was “not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president”
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”

OK, you have to admit, that’s even crazier and scarier than you imagined. Not just that two-thirds of Republicans believe the President is a “socialist,” but that 40% of all Americans agree.

Just don’t ask them for a definition of “socialist.” Avlon makes a good argument that responsibility for this idiocy can be laid at the feet of the media, but judging from the morons selecting schoolbooks in Texas, the problem is far more deeply rooted than that. As Avlon writes:

The poll, which surveyed 2,230 people right at the height of the health-care reform debate, also clearly shows that education is a barrier to extremism. Respondents without a college education are vastly more likely to believe such claims, while Americans with college degrees or better are less easily duped. It’s a reminder of what the 19th-century educator Horace Mann once too-loftily said: “Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge.”

So now what? How is it possible to reverse an accelerating downward slide into rigid ignorance?