Ever since Hillary Clinton supporters started circulating claims that Obama was not born in the United States, Obama’s supporters and strategists have taken a very aggressive posture.
Almost any attempt to discuss the subject is met with a furious response from Media Matters, Think Progress, their progeny in the blogosphere, and the mainstream media.
It that were all there were to the strategy, it would not be so different than strategies a lot of campaigns use to fight what they believe to be smears. The dilemma is that if you engage in the debate, you might give credence to the claims, but if you don’t, it’s hard to convince people otherwise.
But the strategy has gone far beyond confrontation. Political opponents who do not even question Obama’s birthplace are branded “Birthers” as a political tactic.
For example, I documented how during the Brown-Coakley election in Massachusetts, Democratic operatives fabricated the charge that Brown was a “Birther.” A similar tactic was used against Sharron Angle. The entire Tea Party movement has been branded “Birthers” by leading Democrats.
As a strategy, the hyper-aggressiveness has been brilliant in the short run. The accusation of being a “Birther” is right up there with the accusation of being a Racist in the Democratic Party’s tool kit, and is politically toxic.
But as I wrote in July 2009, and again in February 2010, Obama was misplaying the “Birther” card because the frequency of the strategic accusations merely raised the public consciousness and suggested that Obama was hiding something. Far from disproving the claims of “Birthers,” the Obama strategy simply drove the issue below the surface.
Thus, it is not surprising that yet another poll finds that a significant percentage of the population either does not believe Obama was born in Hawaii, or is uncertain.
According to a CNN Poll, only 42% of Americans believe that Obama “definitely” was born in the U.S.
Put differently, 58% are not certain, or believe otherwise. (The other results were 29% probably born in U.S., 16% probably born elsewhere, and 11% definitely born elsewhere, with 2% having no opinion.)
The results, predictably, where higher among Republicans that Obama was not born here, and lower among Democrats. But among independents, the numbers pretty closely tracked the overall numbers, with the exception that only 37% said Obama definitely was born here.
These numbers are astoundingly bad for Obama, and reflect a strategy which has worked in the short run but failed miserably in the long run.
There was an interesting but long forgotten poll by Democratic pollster PPP taken in October 2009, asking the provocative question, “Do you think that Barack Obama loves America?”
The responses were as follows: Yes (59%), No (26%), Not Sure (14%). I have not seen a similar question polled since then, but I would venture to guess the numbers would be even more negative. But even using those almost year-old numbers, the picture is bleak as a President when 40% of the population either thinks you do not love America, or is not sure.
Put it all together, and Obama has disconnected at a fundamental level from almost half the population, or that population has disconnected from him.
While policies and the economy can turn general opinion around, I’m not sure any of those normal factors would change the minds of the near majority who are not even certain that Obama was born here or loves America.
Clearly, the strategy of stifling the debate has not worked.
In fact, I would argue that the strategy has completely backfired, and has made the situation worse for Obama.