Now that the Republicans, led by the Tea Partiers, have persuaded a large part of the mainstream media to take their attacks on unions, social security, medicare and the other gains in social progress that America has made in the past one hundred years seriously under the pretext of fiscal responsibility, while successfully exploiting anti-immigrant prejudice in a time of high unemployment, it might make sense to think that the GOP would try to take advantage of the new respectablilty it has gained for its radical right wing political and economic agenda. This is why it seems inexplicable that the Republicans would pick this particular time to cast themselves as clowns and buffoons by raising the birther issue over President Obama's legitimacy once again.
The birther antics of people like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin almost seem designed to mock American voters for having taken their party too seriously. But there is nothing funny in the results of a poll that Ed Schultz mentioned on MSNBC on April 21, puportedly showing that 67 per cent of Republican voters are either not sure that President Obama was born in the US or firmly believe that he was not. If that poll is accurate, the Republicans, and the country, could be in deep trouble. Democracy itself depends on an informed public, not one that can be easily manipulated by the Big Lie into believing somethig that is patently absurd.
This is, no doubt, why some Republicans leaders are choosing the side of sanity, at least on this issue. Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, by vetoing a birther bill in her state, evidently realized that if she had signed it, critics would lump that law together with the state's immigration law as two examples of the Republicans' taking leave of their senses. By continuing to defend Arizona's immigration law while vetoing the birther bill, Governor Brewer is at least able to preserve her contention that the Arizona immigration law is a serious attempt to deal with an important issue, whether one agrees with the law or not. This would have been much more difficult for her if she had signed the birther bill. Some other Republicans, even extreme Tea Party radicals like Michele Bachmann, are reportedly having second thoughts about supporting the birther lunacy.
Therefore, why are some Republicans still attempting to bring up the issue of President Obama's legitimacy, an issue which should have been stillborn? Because they cannot help themselves. The birther controversy is about one thing and one thing only - whether a black person can be a legitimate US president. This issue would never have arisen, much less gained so much publicity, if President Obama were white. The birther movement is nothing more than one more indication of how much at least some Republican leaders are so addicted to racist politics that they cannot change, even when the birther controversy threatens to do severe damage to their party and, in the case of Donald Trump at least, to their own personal reputations.
It is also noteworthy that the birther issue is one that President Obama cannot resolve by his usual instinct of trying to split the difference with his opponents. Either he was born in the US or he was not - there is no middle ground. Or is there? If one looks east on a map starting from the western part of the Pacific Ocean, is not Hawaii somewhere in the broad middle between Indonesia and Kenya (give or take a few thousand miles)? The revival of the birther issue so close to next year's election also shows how slim the chances are of obtaining any Republican cooperation on immigration reform. Despite Governor Brewer's veto, birther politics and anti-immigrant politics are joined together at the hip - from the moment of birth.