Under President Obama, the belief that the government poses “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens” is held by nearly half of all Americans, according to Gallup.
In terms of presidential politics, the fact that the biggest leap came between 2003 and 2006 is interesting. To be sure, after 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, civil libertarians were right to express concern about the new powers being claimed by the government. But the Patriot Act passed in October 2001. What characterized the later six years of President Bush’s time in office was a concerted and constant press by the news and entertainment media to make the Republican administration appear as a threat.
Another chart farther down at the above link bolsters this point, showing that, after a dip in the threat assessment by supporters of both major political parties from 2004 to 2005, Democrats increased in their sense of a federal threat from 45% to 59%, while Republicans only increased from 23% to 24% by late 2006.
By the next time the party question was asked, in late 2010, the parties had essentially switched, with Republicans worrying about the threat at 63% and Democrats at 26%. The fevered pitch of distrust that the media stoked remained, it just took hold among a different group. Interestingly, since that time, despite the concerted and constant effort of the news and entertainment media to support President Obama and downplay his scandals, the sense of a threat among Democrats has grown from 26% to 32%, while only 63% to 65% among Republicans.
This is purely my interpretation, of course, but I would argue that some concern was justified after the passage of the Patriot Act, but that the Democrats’ allies in the media worked overtime to convince Americans that President Bush wasn’t just a less desirable choice than other options, but a threat to the country, blending seamlessly with the delirious hysteria surrounding Obama’s election. Since then, however, it’s become increasingly clear that the government under Obama has actually become a threat.
[Note: This post was initially misclassified as a Liveblog. See here for the original post and comments.]