Republican Fear Mongering: What They Thought after the ’08 Election

This may be very, very old news to those of you who have been liberal for years, but I was raised by conservative parents in a deeply religious environment, so seeing this from the other side is still new to me sometimes. I was cleaning out my closet the other day, and I happen to keep my old diaries in there. One in particular, from back when I was in high school, gives a response to the 2008 election, when President Obama was first voted into office. It came at a point in my life when anything I said was basically a repeated opinion belonging to someone else. I hadn’t yet started to formulate my own opinions. Here’s what it says:

An old diary entry from 2008. It's very disturbing to remember the crazy things I used to think about the president.

An old diary entry from 2008. It’s very disturbing to remember the crazy things I used to think about the president.

11/4/08

Dear Diary,

It’s official. I heard the announcement on the radio: Obama was just elected president. I’m afraid. Mom says he’s just like Hitler, lots of Charisma, [why the capital letter, 2008 me?] terrible ideas. He’s going to remove all restrictions on abortion, then he’s going to start a 3rd hollocost [sic] (abortion being the 2nd). He’s going to chase down every white man and woman and child in the country and he’s going to kill us!

I don’t want to die! I want to grow up and write stories and go to college and get married and raise a family!

I want to marry the guy of my dreams! Have my fairy tale ending! Please don’t take that away from me!!!

Thank you for reading.

As tempting as it is to spend this entire post making fun of myself for starting a journal entry with “Dear Diary,” here’s why I think this find from my past is worthy of a post here: I genuinely believed these things because the adults in my life–the people who were supposed to instill some basic moral values and people skills in me–were saying them.

These opinions, in varying degrees of panic, were brought up at the dinner table, whenever my family watched or read the news, whenever I attended my Catholic homeschooling co op or other activities run by homeschoolers. This was my reality. These opinions were everywhere, and I rarely, if ever, heard anyone disagree with them. I was living in a conservative echo chamber, and with any echo chamber, it’s easy to see how one idea–in this case, the notion that a particular candidate is the worst possible candidate ever and shouldn’t be elected, can get blown out of proportion; it’s like a game of telephone.

Remember that game, where you sit in a line or a circle, and one kid says a phrase or a sentence, and passes it on to the next kid, who then passes it on to the next one? Somewhere down the line, it nearly always got changed, often because someone did it deliberately to be funny, but sometimes simply because someone misheard the message as it went down. All it takes is one exaggeration or other slight change in each retelling for a story or an idea to morph into something completely different. A brown bear becomes a mythical monster. A man becomes a god. A run-of-the-mill establishment politician running for president as a democrat becomes a black Hitler. Never mind the fact that historically, the comparison itself is ridiculous and in bad taste. Never mind that having concern for the way minorities are being treated is not the same as hating the majority group.

I will admit I had a tendency to be over dramatic in my diary entries, which were often the oh-my-god-that-cute-guy-looked-at-me nonsense that’s typical for someone in the grasp of adolescent hormones. But I tried not to lie. It’s very possible that these were just the absolute worst things that I heard, and I skipped over the more rational ones. But it’s the terrible things that stick in your head, isn’t it? Especially when you’re young. I got an education and thought my way out of that nonsense, but what about the kids who didn’t?

I don’t know where those rumors originated because of how oblivious I was to actual politics at the time. Did a conservative talk show host bring them up? Were they spreading through conservative news organizations? Were they simply the terrified whisperings of racist middle aged republicans? I don’t know. One thing I do know, though, is that the conservative echo chamber leads to fearmongering. It lead to panic about a “black supremacist” president, who in two terms has clearly not done anything to indicate such a mindset.

This is what some Republicans thought at the time. Surely not all, but some.

Having switched sides, I hope that I’m not living in a democratic, left-wing echo chamber now. I hope I’m evaluating my fears about a President Donald Trump or Ben Carson or Ted Cruz adequately. I believe that I understand that the worst that’s likely to happen with any of them is bad policy decisions, not world war III. We need to be aware of this human tendency to imagine the worst, and not turn these candidates into caricatures. They’re doing a good enough job of that by themselves already.

Do any of you have memories of the ’08 election and what the two sides were saying about each other? Were the campaigns then anything like the ones we’re seeing today? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

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2 thoughts on “Republican Fear Mongering: What They Thought after the ’08 Election

  1. I think a lot of people make up assumptions based on mass-hysteria/media sensationalism without even realising it. The older I’ve become, and the more I’ve realised how different everyone is, the more liberal and open-minded I have turned out to be. I came from a conservative South African family who feared Nelson Mandela’s election back in 1994. We fled the country along with 10s, if not 100s of thousands of others since. It seems laughable now because Mandela wasn’t the one to be afraid of… it was the people who followed him and didn’t share in his values. South Africa now is literally a shit-hole of a country. As much as I love it. I understand how people feared Obama in this respect, but it’s simply due to fear and ignorance, and it isn’t right.

    Now that people are turning the stick on democrats and saying that our fear of Trump is based on mass-hysteria, I want to laugh. The far right (religious and political media) practically invented it back in those communism-fearing days. Whatever Trump said was loud and clear. The anger he riled up in people was unfounded – the whole world saw it. To someone like me, from New Zealand, the far right of America are as bad as Islamic extremists. It’s all religious fundamentalism and bigotry.

    Good on you for questioning things!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re probably right about the media. In the US we watched our media choose sides throughout the entire presidential election, with the majority of the mainstream media backing Hillary Clinton before the primaries even started. That is partly why it was such a huge shock to so many people when she didn’t win. The media had been telling us it was inevitable, and they were very wrong.

      About the far right in the US being as bad as terrorists, I have to agree with you that there are definitely individuals among them who perform terrorist acts. Some examples that come to mind off the top of my head are people who bomb abortion clinics, and a shooter in Charleston who shot up a black church (Dylann Roof). I was raised in a conservative family as part of the pro-life movement, so I attended a lot of peaceful protests with right wingers. I do have to acknowledge that just like with Muslims, there are those who simply have their beliefs and those who force them on others, but there’s no denying that people to this day use the ideas of our right-wing politics to fuel terrorism and hate crimes.

      Like

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