‘Birther’ lunacy leaves all Republicans painted as racist crackpots

By Charles Gray Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-21 18:58:01

The racist and lunatic crusade to prove that US President Barack Obama, a native-born American, is not eligible to hold office has now been going for over five years. This crusade has involved faking documents, claiming that real documents are fake and spurious claims of conspiracy.

 These "birthers" as they have become known, make up a substantial portion of the Republican voting base, with 64 percent of Republicans claiming to believe that the president is hiding some information about his past that may relate to his eligibility for the presidency.  The core of this is the desperation to find some way to deny the legitimacy of a black president.

However, far from being a danger to Obama, birther mania has actually helped his political agenda and has, more often than not, left the Republican Party on the political defensive. 

It is important to note that the legal question of Obama's eligibility for the presidency has been settled beyond any possible doubt. Every attempt that has been made to cast legal questions on the president's legitimacy has been refused by the courts.

Continuing birther legal attacks on Obama have become the objects of mockery among the public, as well as providing fodder for comedians.

The first advantage the birther movement has provided Obama is that it has worked to divide and discredit the Republican Party, commonly known as the GOP, for "grand old party." The GOP's leadership understands how damaging this movement is to the GOP's public image among independents and minorities alike, both of whom are well aware of its thinly disguised racist origins. 

Because of this, the party cannot adopt the birther platform, and yet must also step carefully in order to avoid antagonizing the significant percentage of the GOP who fervently believe in this theory.

Even more damagingly, some prominent birthers make it impossible for the GOP to simply ignore the movement. The property tycoon Donald Trump, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other nationally known figures have all made birther claims, and yet none of them have been able to show any evidence for their claims. 

This is especially true in the case of Arpaio, whose birther claims appear to be in response to the ongoing civil rights investigation targeting his department, leading many to believe that in addition to being irrational, his attacks are motivated by a selfish desire to distract the public from his own misdeeds. Arpaio's decision to send a "posse" to Hawaii added a ridiculous air to the entire situation.

Worst of all for the GOP is the fact that it finds itself in the position of being unable to simply denounce the movement on a party-wide base, for fear of antagonizing birther supporters. Even attempts by such former party luminaries as Karl Rove and Colin Powell have had little success in creating the party-wide action that is needed to fully distance the GOP from the birthers' toxic beliefs.  

While this will not harm some Republicans, particularly those seeking election in conservative districts, Republicans facing seriously contested elections may find the birther phenomena costing them the general election.

Additionally, since the birther movement is a fundamentally racist phenomenon, this has harmed the GOP's standing among minorities at the very moment the party is attempting to court them.

But even more damagingly for the GOP, birtherism makes it hard to take the Republican Party itself seriously.  The image of self-identified Republicans ranting on about secret conspiracies and faked birth certificates will continue to have an impact even after Obama has left office, and will work to harm the GOP's image as a serious national party in the eyes of moderates and independents alike.

Fundamentally, the birthers have done worse than make the GOP an object of anger. They have made it an object of ridicule.

Every Republican who is or who can be branded a birther loses credibility in the public eye. No matter the subject these individuals are discussing, it will be filtered through the perception of their irrationality.

In the long run, the end of Obama's time as president may help reduce the damage the birther movement has done to the GOP, but it will not eliminate it. 

From crazed court submissions to desperate pleas to the electoral college, the birther movement has helped brand the GOP as the home of irrational conspiracy theorists, all without any effort on the part of Obama or the Democrats. 

Ultimately, birthers may once again prove that it is far worse for a political movement to be laughed at than it is for it to be hated.

The author is a freelance writer based in Corona, California. charlesgray109@gmail.com

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