A recent poll from the DailyKos purports to show just how crazy Republicans are. Some highlights include the assertion that high numbers of Republicans believe that President Obama wasn’t born in the US, that they think he is a Socialist (Gasp!), and that Sarah Palin was more qualified to serve as president than Barrack Obama. The horror of it all.
Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy offers a rather insightful analysis of this poll.
I think that many of the Kos findings are roughly accurate. The mistake is not the conclusion that partisan Republicans hold many irrational views, but the implicit assumption that this problem is confined to one side of the political spectrum.
So Somin takes a look at the left:
Kos makes much of the finding that 23% of Republicans in the survey say they want their state to secede. But a 2008 Zogby/Middlebury College poll found that support for secession was vastly more common among liberals than conservatives. In that poll 32% of liberals claimed that their state has a right to secede (compared to only 17% of conservatives), and a whopping 33% of African-American respondents (an overwhelmingly Democratic group), said that they would support a secession movement in their state.
Kos also points out the 36% of Republicans in his study who seem to endorse birtherism and the 22% who say they aren’t sure. Birtherism is indeed ridiculous. Yet a 2007 poll found that 35% of self-identified Democrats believe that Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, and 26% say they don’t know if he did.
Other examples of ignorance and irrationality by Democratic voters are not hard to come by. For example, some 32% of Democrats believe that “the Jews” deserve a substantial amount of blame for the financial crisis (compared to 18% of Republicans). In November 2008, some 59% of Obama voters did not know that the Democrats then had control of Congress.
So yes, there are some people out there on the Right who believe some pretty strange things. The DailyKos is hardly to be viewed as not having an interest in trumping that number up, however, and Somin addresses that by criticizing the Kos’ methods a bit. But the real issue is simply, so what? There are nuts on the Left as well, and some of the things they believe are even more bizzare than some things floating around on the Right. It also seems that the far Laft has much more influence — especially right now — on the Democratic Party in general than the far Right has on the Republican Party, despite efforts to portray the Tea movement as extremely far to the right.
So yes, there are some birthers out there. They worry me much less than the 9/11 truthers, and seem to have much less influence. For the Left to rant about the crazy on the Right doesn’t seem to be the best policy for assurance of sanity on either side.