So, there's this new Newsweek Poll with a number of questions about Islam and politics, including two specifically focused on Obama. I think that one thing these questions do is to demonstrate the significance of some things that Versailles--and not least the Obama Administration itself--has been trying to ignore.
First off, what both of the following say to me is that (1) identity-based culture wars aren't going anywhere, no matter how much Obama might wish otherwise. (2) Off-the-wall narratives about Obama being a Muslim and being foreign-born are not just strange anomalous opinions without political consequence. More on what they say, afterwards. Here's the first one:
The notion that Obama "favors the interests of Muslim Americans" is frankly ludicrous. But, then, so was the notion that blacks had too much influence in 1964. Yet, as I noted in a recent diary, that's exactly what a substantial number of people believed, particularly those who were more conservative:
I wonder what would have happened if Newsweak had a couple of different, but related questions. First: "Some people think President Obama was favoring Muslim Americans when he pointed out that the First Amendment guaranteed their right to build a mosque wherever they wanted. Others disagree, since he specifically said he had no opinion on whether it was a good thing for them to build the mosque. Which comes closest your point of view?" Second (Only for those who agreed with the first statement): Is there anything else specific you can point to as evidence that Obama favors Muslim Americans? In a formal sense, these two questions represent much better question design. But I actually think that by screening out a certain level of unreflective prejudice they would deprive us of important information. I'd like to have all the questions asked, so we could see how the responses differed.
The second question was even more revealing:
So a majority of Republicans think that Obama probably or definitely wants to impose Islamic law. Even more disturbing, the number of Democrats who know this is false is less than a majority!
This is cuckoo talk. It's on the level of a neighbor boy back in 1956 telling me the day after the Presidential election that Stevenson had been discovered to be a "Jap spy" and that Eisenhower was going to shoot him in the head on White House lawn. I was seven years old, and he was a year or two older. I was dumbstruck. I just couldn't believe that someone older than me could be so totally ill-informed. (WW II had been over for the entirety of both of our lives, just for starters. He didn't even know who our official enemy was.) Little did I know.
As Meteor Blades pointed out at DKos,
a key inquiry was nowhere to be found: "Do you know what Islamic law is?" Honest answers to that would probably tally in single digits.
It should be painfully obvious that these sorts of "beliefs" aren't factual beliefs from the realm of logos. They are moral beliefs from the realm of mythos, though those who hold them have no idea of the difference.
And this is the central fact of the ongoing culture war we are trapped within. This is the clash of civilizations within America. And one of those two civilizations has no stable equilibrium this side of utter barbarism.