Here's one of many problems however: you need to address ridiculous claims only with ridicule or serious rebuttals that are actually pertinent to the claims. Trying to divine something about the person's character that isn't obviously linked to the talking points being dealt with is only a practice in shooting yourself in the foot.
The following quote is from a comment left on the Media Matters website (which is excellent, by the way). Sadly, I do not know the exact thread or the commenter so I cannot give it proper attribution.
Can't a person disagree with Obama without being called a racist
Sure people can freely disagree with Obama without being called a racist. But if you:
Don't believe Obama is a US citizen.
Believe Obama is the anti-Christ.
Belive Obama is a fascist/socialist/marxist/communist
Don't want your children to view a speech by the black man encouraging staying in school and setting goals.
Cry at a town hall that you want your country back or say that this isn't the country you remember due to the black man being in the White House.
Then, you're a racist.For those of you who have read posts on this site in the past, you know that I am an atheist, and that I am a liberal. But there is something else that I am that doesn't quite have a proper name: I am a crusader on behalf of using simple, easily understood logic. If you overstate your case for something, I will find myself either slightly uncomfortable (if the reason for the overstatement is understandable, or if it is not clearly in error) to outright outraged (if I am one of my moods). What was written above has a slight problem: none of the things described could logically lead you to conclude that the person who believes them is actually racist.
The people who believe that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. are incredibly ignorant and want to hold onto the idea because they don't want to accept the legitimacy of a President from the opposite party.
The belief that Obama is the anti-Christ is actually not that odd. Almost any world leader has had their groups of people who didn't care for them speculating wildly about how they may be the anti-Christ. Because, really, if you are going to speculate wildly, why not go the whole 9 yards?
The claim that Obama is a fascocommusocialist is more of a slur (against liberalism) and an attempt to basically call him a big fat meanie without getting laughed at (as much). It's been noted that fascist/Nazi comparisons to Bush weren't uncommon. Granted, I don't think they were nearly as, well, "mainstream"...nor present before his first year of office was even completed. So I do not dare draw a false equivalence here. But, as ridiculous, petty, and paranoid as it is, racist it is not, since they are supposed to basically describe their deluded perception of his politics.
Again, the opposition to Obama's speech to students was ridiculous, but it was rooted in fear of "fascism" and somehow indoctrinating school children. I realize how it seems difficult muster such an overblown reaction without Obama's blackness (blackitude?) being a point of relevance, or their having some sort of ulterior motive. But we have already established in the previous administration that these aren't the most rational people in the world. Is it really too much to simply take all of this as a reaction to their sudden loss of political influence (and thus their natural fear becoming panic since they feel like they've lost control)? Isn't that probably more of an issue, rather than the race of the man in the Oval Office?
And the town hall craziness is related to other forms of craziness.
In other words, partisanship is the most parsimonious explanation and is the one that needs to be assumed unless given evidence to assume otherwise (mostly on an individual basis). To do otherwise, to impose more complex, sinister motives onto people you disagree with is to make dialog devolve further. And therein lies the problem.
At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant (moreso than usual?), people who make statements like the above, biting off more than they can chew in order to score political points, damage the cause for other people on their "side". By impugning their character in an irrational manner, such people give fodder to the "other side", allowing them to play the victim card as well as supplying them with an argument to easily eviscerate and sneer about. And, above all, it lends credibility to the idea that we are just as good or bad as that other side is. Every misstep like this makes the idea that the major two political groupings are equivalent in terms of ability to reason, factual basis for their claims, and willingness to actually address the issues fairly. Things like this, especially if they become too commonly repeated, damage our credibility very quickly, and it is something we cannot let happen. Although the idea of simply relaxing and letting the Republicans desperately whine due to losing power sounds appealing, we ignore them at our peril. If we let them continue to whip Americans into a frenzy of fear without rebuttal, they will be right back from their current weakened position. And if we sink to their level, depending on how far the process goes...I am just not sure that their victory is a bad thing at that point.
When it comes to politeness, that's more arbitrary. Politeness can go fuck itself for all I care. It is important in politicians, but everyone is aware that political discourse can be heated. Being factually correct is more important than being nice about it. Fairness and honesty cannot be manhandled or discarded as essentially unnecessary in such a fashion. And, above, we simply cannot afford to make leaps in logic and paint the "other side" as evil, when it is much easier, and much more easy to support, to simply call them stupid instead. And, hopefully, to show them why.
In so many words: please keep Hanlon's Razor in mind. Never impugn another person's moral character when the only thing that you can actual argue for is that they are obviously and egregiously wrong. *
*Except for me. If I make a mistake, you can feel free to assume that it's because I am absolutely evil and it was a deliberate attempt to mislead and bring about the end of Western civilization.
[A note: I realize that I have used a lot of "us-them" terminology in this post. I don't apologize for this because that's the nature of the "culture wars". In the realm of political debate, you put on your Red, Blue, or, God forbid, your Green hat and then grab a battleax before charging into the arena. At the end of the day, when the hats come off, and you're back in church, at work, at a restaurant, or loitering at a playground for undisclosed reasons, then no-one really gives a fuck anymore about the color of that hat (well, hopefully). Redhat#03694 who rants about the evils of welfare is now Jim, the always-smiling guy who lets everyone in the office use his stapler. Bluehat#41251 who lectures about why we should allow gay marriage is now Tabitha, the bookish girl who volunteers at that soup kitchen. Greenhat#016 is Ralph Nader. Anyway, the point is that even though I do very much think it is an "us vs. them" situation, the "us" and "them" apply exclusively to the political beliefs, and not as much to the actual people holding them. But, the distinction is hard to make, I admit.]