From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, the story that drove conservative politics was that of the Cold War. It was the story of an epic conflict between the good guys -- the God-fearing, freedom-loving, capitalist United States of America -- and the bad guys -- the atheistic, repressive, communist USSR. Every political event, from antiwar protests to the United Nations to national health care, could be understood within the frame of this conflict.
As the Cold War began to dissipate in the 1980s, a new breed of conservatives sought to replace this story with one called the Culture War. This was the story of an epic conflict between the good guys -- the God-fearing, freedom-loving, capitalist "ordinary" Americans -- and the bad guys -- the elitist, secularist, socialist, tyrannical liberals and their black, gay, and Latino allies. Every political event, from environmental regulation to financial crisis to national health care, could be understood within the frame of this conflict. Many of those promoting this story explicitly compared it to the Cold War.
Yeah, they ran outta commies to blame so they had to make some outta whomever was handy - US.
The Culture War story has been particularly appealing to many conservatives because of the way that it vindicates an American social group that had fallen into disfavor. After the civil rights movement, racial and religious tolerance became preeminent virtues in modern American society. As social barriers from race to gender to sexual orientation fell like dominoes, the media disparaged and ridiculed racists, xenophobes, and religious dogmatists who fought the changes.
The Culture War narrative turns this modern worldview upside down. In this story, white, Christian conservatives are the victims; liberals and minorities are the intolerant bigots who oppress them. That's the reason that Fox News has spent so much time presenting President Obama, Justice Sotomayor, and a host of black, Latino, or gay officials as anti-white, anti-Christian, and anti-American.
The election of a black president did not create the extreme right-wing backlash any more than the recession did. Rather, Obama's election fit neatly into a narrative that has been steadily gaining popularity for thirty years and thus stoked a fire that had long been burning and spreading through both economic booms and busts. Until the country can shake itself free from this narrative, the paranoia that we have seen the past two years will continue to seduce millions of Americans.
In other words, when pigs fly.