It’s the “usurper” line that ties the whole deranged tale together. Since the 2008 campaign, the far right has ginned up a steady stream of Internet rumors and rhetoric that are variations on the idea that Obama is fundamentally un-American. These range from “Obama is the Antichrist” emails passed on by people, including a South Carolina mayor, to the “Obama is a Manchurian candidate” theories posited by WorldNet Daily, among others. The underlying theme is not just paranoid politics, where a center-left president is called a socialist and then communist, but also discomfort with the idea of an African-American president—especially one who emerged from obscurity so quickly that there must be a sinister conspiracy at work.

All this might be laughable, if there weren’t deadly serious hyper-partisan hatred behind it all. There is plenty to debate over the administration’s policies, but Obama Derangement Syndrome is not healthy for our democracy—it is pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism.