Monday, February 14, 2011


Politico notes that birtherism -- which "serious" D.C. Republicans shun -- is thriving at the state level:

The opening of 2011 state legislative sessions has been accompanied by a spate of birther-related bills, the clearest indication yet that the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s place of birth will continue to simmer throughout his reelection campaign.

Lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced bills requiring presidential candidates to provide some form of proof that they are natural-born citizens, a ballot qualification rule designed to address widespread rumors on the right that Obama was not born in the United States....

Steve Benen notes that John Boehner and Eric Cantor have made a great effort to sidestep the issue, but he asks:

Congressional Republican leaders don't want to "tell people what to think," but would they at least be willing to characterize these crazy state efforts as ridiculous?

Really, though, why should they? Birtherism is a successful niche product. Sure, it's very, very bad for the mental health of the people who buy it -- but those people want it, so Republicans are willing to sell it to them, while reaping the profits: constantly reinforced anti-Obama anger, which leads to more and more Republican votes. But the elitists who profit from this dangerous niche product succeed in persuading their fellow elitists in the Beltway that they have nothing to do with it.

Adam Serwer says the GOP's birther two-step -- joking about it, but never quite proceeding to a legislative endorsement of it -- is a way to "mollify the birther elements of the Republican base who simply can't accept the legitimacy of a black man in the White House by signaling agreement with them, while allowing Republicans averse to conspiracy theorizing to dismiss it all as a jest."

But if birtherism really is so embarrassing to "Republicans averse to conspiracy theorizing," then why don't Democrats somehow force Republicans to take a stand on it -- say, in a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate? Why not take a birther bill, force it to the floor, and let the D.C. press corps and angry birthers watch how GOP senators vote? Shouldn't that be lose-lose for Republicans? Either they alienate the birther crazies or they demonstrate to the Village that they stand with those crazies?

Oh, yeah, I forgot: if Democrats ever tried doing that, the issue would be what a low, mean trick the Democrats were playing. Republicans would just take their ball and go home -- they'd shut down any negotiations they're involved in on what little legislation they'll let pass in this session. They'll snivel to their friends in the press that the Democrats are being mean to them. John McCain will get that world-weary tone of quietly righteous indignation on a Sunday morning talk show (or two, or five). It'll be a cheap stunt. It'll be all about Democratic "childishness."

So we can't make them put up or shut up on birtherism, can we?

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