WHY SHOULD WE ASSUME BIRTHERS DON'T TAKE BIRTHERISM LITERALLY?
A new Public Policy Polling survey suggests that a majority of Republicans are now birthers:
Birthers make a majority among those voters who say they're likely to participate in a Republican primary next year. 51% say they don't think Barack Obama was born in the United States to just 28% who firmly believe that he was and 21% who are unsure. The GOP birther majority is a new development.
In response to this, Dave Weigel writes,
Does that mean that 72 percent of Republicans think Obama should be disqualified from the presidency? No. It suggests that birtherism has become another screen for extreme partisanship.
The suggestion is that the birthers only kinda-sorta question Obama's eligibility, and that they're saying this mostly because they just don't like Obama. (The PPP question was "Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States?")
I agree with Jonathan Bernstein that reporters should try to find out more about what these people actually think -- but as for me, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't believe the vast majority of birthers mean exactly what they're saying and absolutely believe that Obama has become president through deliberate deceit.
You have to remember that these people feel they're at war with Obama, Democrats, liberalism, socialism, and so on (up to and including a Kenyan anti-colonialist Piven/Cloward-meets-sharia vast conspiracy).
Think about what people believe in times of war, or in run-ups to war. Do you think a lot of people literally believed in late 1990 and early 1991 that Iraqis threw Kuwaiti babies out of incubators? I sure do. And because I do -- because I remember that people believed it -- I also believe that people on our side literally believed those earlier war stories about the POW who passed along a secret message concealed under the stamp of his letter: "They have cut out my tongue." As Snopes notes, this story has been told in several wars -- the Civil War, World War I, World War II -- sometimes on both sides of a war, and with varying body parts lopped off.)
I'd also note that Obama is regarded on the right as ideologically and racially "other," even though he's been deemed a full and equal citizen. That's a status Jews had attained in many places where the "blood libel" flourished. Don't you think a hell of a lot of people have taken that quite literally?
Modern Republicans aren't just people blowing off steam -- they're people who believe they're at war with an implacably evil enemy to everything they hold dear. I just don't believe their birtherism is half-hearted or flippant.