Monday, October 24, 2011


There was a time when I might have argued that Rick Perry had done himself a favor with this exchange in a Parade magazine interview -- a time when I might have argued that a statistically significant percentage of the GOP electorate is still skeptical about this (which I believe is true) and wants to hear that skepticism seconded by politicians:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That's not a definitive, "Yes, I believe he"--
Well, I don't have a definitive answer, because he's never seen my birth certificate.

But you've seen his.
I don't know. Have I?

You don't believe what’s been released?
I don't know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

That came up.

And he said?
He doesn't think it’s real.

And you said?
I don't have any idea. It doesn't matter. He's the President of the United States. He's elected. It’s a distractive issue.

But birtherism is essentially over on the right -- not because people stopped being birthers, but because wingers know that Barack Obama won this one where the right usually wins, which is in the court of low-information-voter public opinion.

He released the long-form certificate, he quieted a lot of skeptics, he humiliated Trump (with the release and with his jabs at Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner) -- oh, and around the same time, he got bin Laden killed. It's not just that Obama prevailed (he prevailed by getting a health care law passed, but that hasn't stopped the right from endlessly relitigating the issue). It's that he kept it simple, and now the contested voters in the middle who regularly fall sway to GOP rhetoric think birtherism and birthers are foolish.

Victories like this are few and far between. The big one was the Iraq War -- wingers argue endlessly that the GOP lost in 2006 and 2008 because of excessive spending, but they know damn well that it was Bush's failures, with Iraq at the top of the list, and as a result they haven't bothered trying to rally the public against Obama-as-sandal-clad-peacenik in any serious way. Other victories have been smaller -- I'd say they feel cowed by charges of racism, especially in the early days of the tea party, so they've taken pains to appear "diverse." But I can't think of too many other such wins.

The new birtherism is tax nuttery -- the low-info public doesn't know it's insane, so you can say anything and it won't be easily dismissed as crazy talk. Perry should walk away from Trump and stick with the economic flat-eartherism of his flat tax.