If you're a Democrat in Western Pennsylvania, this has been a tough autumn. In Congressional races, Pittsburghers are being asked to vote for a slate of pro-life Democrats, some of whom barely seem alive themselves. (I'm looking at you, Bob Casey.) And for all of his successes — advancing the LGBT agenda, stabilizing a still-weak economy, that whole killing bin Laden thing — President Obama can be frustrating too. There was that first debate performance. His feckless response to global climate change. His decision to ignore single-payer health-care proposals.
Our Republican neighbors, meanwhile, seem newly energized. Polls are tightening, and while they may not know what they're voting for — how could they, given a presidential nominee whose political positions change almost hourly? — they know what they're voting against. Namely, that socialist in the White House, and the America-haters who put him there.
So if you're struggling for motivation this November, take a page from their book. Don't think of this as a vote for President Obama. Think of it as a vote against a mindset that has given us Rush Limbaugh, the collected works of Ann Coulter ... and more recently, the major motion picture 2016: Obama's America.
If you missed 2016 in theaters, don't despair: It's out on DVD. (Armstrong Utilities, a local cable provider whose executives include big Republican donors, is also offering it for free through its on-demand channel. Long live the liberal media!)
Based on a book by narrator Dinesh D'Souza, 2016 argues that Obama has inherited the anti-colonial aspirations of his Kenyan-born father. While Barack Sr. was almost entirely absent during Obama's childhood, D'Souza maintains, his son idolized his revolutionary values. What's more, D'Souza adds, Obama attached himself to surrogate fathers like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright — all the America-hating names you remember from the conspiracy theories of 2008.
(Funnily enough, another film making the rounds at Tea Party screenings, Dreams From My Real Father, asserts that Obama's biological dad was actually a Communist named Frank Marshall Davis, and Obama was inspired by him. Details, details. The point is: Somebody was Obama's father. And whoever it was, he hated your freedoms.)
D'Souza makes his case with lots of armchair philosophy — by undermining America, he surmises, "perhaps [Obama] can become worthy of his father's love"— and some serious logical leaps.
Exhibit A in the indictment, for example, is the fact that Obama returned a bust of Winston Churchill to the British. Yes, I'm telling you! But it turns out the bust had merely been on loan ... and the White House has another copy of it still on display.
In fact, the film disproves its own thesis within the first 15 minutes. While showing how Obama has let us all down, the film quotes some Occupy Wall Street protesters. "He's betrayed virtually everything that I got the impression he was going to do," says one demonstrator, while behind him a comrade holds a sign reading "Will work 4 revolution."
But wait! If Obama was a closet Marxist anti-colonialist, wouldn't he at least be popular with anonymous revolutionaries?
Well, see, "We haven't seen the real Obama," D'Souza insists. But if he gets a second term, he'll use "debt as a weapon of mass destruction" to destroy us! He'll enable the creation of a United States of Islam!
With that, D'Souza joins a fear campaign led by groups like the NRA, which argues that although Obama has done jack-shit on gun control, the jack boots will come out if he's re-elected.
You can see why the GOP faithful eat this stuff up: They're used to jumping at phantoms. This is a party that is outraged by false information surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Libya ... but scarcely stirs when false information sends four thousand Americans to die in Iraq. It's a party that warns of the federal debt we're leaving our children ... but gives no thought to an environmental inheritance of rising temperatures and sea levels. More importantly, it's a party that doesn't even recognize those contradictions: Polls suggest that most Republicans today believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but don't believe humans are responsible for climate change.
Films like 2016 — like books published by Regnery, or news broadcasts on Fox — don't tell you much about Democrats. But they do put GOP paranoia on display. Within that mindset, what matters isn't so much depicting Obama as exotic and un-American. What matters is depicting the rest of us that way. Republicans are the Dallas Cowboys of politics — they've anointed themselves America's Team, and decided the rest of us aren't on it. So they're turning the entire national debate into an online comment thread — a place to troll those they disagree with, using whatever insult or spurious "fact" comes to hand.
So if, on Election Day, you find it hard to remember why you're voting ... vote against that.