Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dog Whistle: Birther Edition

1. Birtherism - the belief that President Obama was not really born in Hawaii, and that the State of Hawaii is somehow lying or covering for him - is illogical.  Sometimes people - especially politicians - lie.  But in this case, there is no logical reason to believe President Obama was lying about the place of his birth, because the people we trust to verify these things (state health officials) all say that President Obama was born in Hawaii.  I'm not going to go through the entire case, because Factcheck.org has done that.  But even if we believe that the State officials are lying (and why would it be logical to believe that?), the release of his long-form birth certificate should take care of any concerns that any remotely reasonable person may have.

So even if any of the Birther nonsense was ever driven by any real, logical concerns, at this point anybody who believes that President Obama was not born in America is driven by delusion.

2. Senator McCain was not born in America, and nobody persisted in saying that he was ineligible to be president.  But Senator McCain was born on a military installation.  And Senator McCain is white.  Yeah, I said it.

3. Birtherism fits in with the larger meme of "Obama as Other/Un-American" that some Republicans have been pushing explicitly.  And while the mainstream Rs do not explicitly link this theme to race, religion, or birth place, it happens in a context of repeated accusations by fringe (and sometimes not-so-fringe) right-wingers that President Obama is muslim, is un-American in his thoughts or allegiances, and was not born in America.

And while Republican leaders reluctantly say that the Birther issue is done -

- They are never willing to explicitly say people are wrong to think this.  And then over, and over again some lower-level Republican says something snide like:

“I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don’t know that,” Coffman said. “But I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.”

- Which seems to be a wink/dog whistle to Birthers while being vague enough to maintain plausibility in a subsequent non-apology-apology like this one.

4. And then there's this guy in Arizona, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who has threatened to remove President Obama from the general election rolls in Arizona because he is not satisfied that President Obama was born in Hawaii.  Never mind that he's the sitting president.  Never mind that this is all a loony toons right wing conspiracy theory with no proof, or that there is actual proof on the other side (see above).  Dude honestly seems to be threatening to keep the President of the United States off the ballot in Arizona.  That is ludicrous.  I would say Arizona should be ashamed, but they elected Governor Jan Brewer, who is my second-least-favorite Republican in elected office in America.  (She's just behind Governor Rick Snyder.)

5. There are still substantial numbers of people, more of them apparently Republicans, who are Birthers.  

So what is our take-away from this behavior by Republicans?  This unwillingness to bend to facts and evidence, coupled with a desire to persist in actively theorizing or supporting those who would theorize on whether the President is "truly" American?  What is the goal?  He has a birth certificate.  Everybody in any position of authority to know in Hawaii says he was born there - even the Republicans.  So what possible reason is there for fostering this sort of meme?  Could it be because they think there are still a substantial number of people who are Birthers - no matter what the evidence -and will vote against President Obama, and these Rs don't want to lose those votes?

P.S. Awesome, Secretary Ken Bennett just folded and apologized to Arizona.

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