As anticipatory hysteria among Republicans grows concerning likely executive action by the president on immigration policy, it’s interesting to see how rapidly the image of Obama as a checked-out golfer not bothering to show up for work has been replaced by the specter of Barack the Barbarian, the brooding Third World despot seizing the moment to tear down the borders so his dusky brethren can permanently despoil the land in exchange for votes. It would almost be funny if those projecting both images weren’t so deadly serious about it all.

Us old folks are reminded of the similarly disconnected way Republicans talked about Bill Clinton. He was dangerously liberal–particularly under the influence of his Red Queen, the radical feminist Hillary–but was never so dangerous as when he was “stealing Republican ideas” (as my friend Will Marshall responded, “you can’t steal from an empty wallet,” but whatever). In both cases, the phenomenon has less to do with the object of this self-contradictory rage than with an ideological cosmology in which The Enemy is both depraved and devious–in a word, satanic. As is so often the case, the lurid nightmares of the Christian Right have had an influence far beyond its core audience.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.