At one level, Obama and his supporters have played the “Birther” issue brilliantly. By refusing to release his birth certificate and by equating a demand that Obama release his birth certificate with being a racist, Obama has created the single most toxic charge that can be leveled in current politics.
The Birther card is the new race card, trotted out under strained circumstances in an attempt to discredit political opponents.
We saw this tactic directed by prominent left-wing bloggers against Scott Brown based on demonstrably false factual premises. Brown never questioned whether Obama was born in Hawaii, never raised the issue, and never spoke about the issue, yet was accused of being a Birther.
The use of the Birther card is uni-directional. When Andrew Sullivan wrote that Obama should release his birth certificate, he was not subjected to the type of venom from the left as others and was not excommunicated. There is a principled position that anyone who aspires to a constitutional office should prove with the best evidence available that he or she satisfies the constitutional requirements. But since this test has not been applied prior to Obama, raising such an issue leaves one open to charges of racism.
(Added: While other candidates, including John McCain, have had their constitutional qualification questioned, in McCain’s case because he was born in the Panama canal zone, the documentation or level of proof never before has been the issue, as far as I am aware)
The Birther charge now forms the core of the Democrats’ strategy to paint all opponents as crazy. When Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) took to the floor of the Senate to denounce opponents of the Democratic health care plans, the Birther accusation was part of his attack.
It is a strategy which is foolish because it conflates those who question Obama’s citizenship (a relatively small percentage of the population) with those who question his policies (a relatively large percentage of the population), but it is the Democratic strategy.
Tellingly, Whitehouse’s popularity has plummeted since he made his Birther accusations, as voters in heavily Democratic Rhode Island reacted with disgust at such tactics.
In additional to pissing off (how’s that for an analytical term?) people who question Obama’s policies, the use of the Birther card has not resolved anything. Questions about Obama’s birth, whether real or imagined, merely have been driven underground rather than being refuted.
I wrote last July that the result of these tactics had been to raise the issue of Obama’s birth in the public consciousness:
Media Matters, Think Progress, and a host of left-wing blogs all became obsessed with the Birther theory and movement in the past month [July 2009], as opposition mounted to Obama’s health care plans. What better than to distract attention.
But it is backfiring. It’s like telling people not to think about something, which virtually guarantees they will think about it.
It is quite startling that 40% of the population either thinks Obama does not love his country or is not sure. That would seem to form a pretty solid anti-Obama base. Based on ethnic/racial background, the totals were 36% for Hispanics, 47% for Whites, and 8% for Blacks. The Hispanic number is surprisingly high.
I would be interested in seeing a similar poll today; I bet the results would be even worse for Obama.
The Birther issue may not be the reason why 40% of the population questioned whether Obama loved America (and there would be no logic to it anyway, since one does not need to be born here to love America). But there is no denying that the issue is hanging out there under the surface.
When even Obama feels compelled equate those who question his policies with those who question his citizenship, as Obama did the other day, it is a sign that the issue has not gone away and is eating away at the Obama presidency.
By using the Birther accusation as a political tool to be used against opponents regardless of circumstances, Obama and his supporters have won the battle, but they are losing the war.
And I think Obama and his supporters know it, but they are unable to do anything about it because they have painted themselves into a political corner.
Coakley Supporters Fabricate Birther Accusation Against Brown
Dems Can’t Unring The Birther Bell
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.