The future president, Barack Obama, and his grandparents. Birthers can't stand two things about Obama: 1) That a black man is president and 2) that Obama is a product of a biracial reunion. To Birthers, Obama represents a world in which whites lose their monopoly of political, economic and cultural power and a future in which the racial categories that divide Americans and leave the rich in power become impossibly fuzzy. (The photo is taken form the Obamapedia website at http://www.obamapedia.org/photo/2608844/Obama+and+grandparents. Birthers who see a sinister conspiracy in everything insist that the picture above is photoshopped. For more on this particular dumbness, see http://www.newser.com/story/115902/obama-grandparents-photo-jack-cashill-asserts-its-a-fake-but-photoshop-mistake-suggests-otherwise.html)
If the sheet fits, wear it.
It’s barely worth pointing out, but Birthers believe as they do because they don’t think a black person should be president of what they see as a “white” country. Birthers “want their country back” from people of color. White Birthers see Obama's election as a sign that they have irredeemably lost the country and that they are now on the powerless margins,.
Sadly, Birtherism began with the campaign of a supposedly progressive Democrat. Some Hillary Clinton supporters, as their heavily favored candidate continued to flail in the 2008 Democratic primaries, circulated a scurrilous e-mail, as reported by Ben Smith and Byron Tau:
A young Barack Obama with his mother, Ann Dunham. (Photo from http://obama-zone.com/parents-barack-obama/).
The non-partisan website Factcheck.org examined and photographed the long form document in August 2008. “FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate,” the site reported. “We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false.” (See http://www.factcheck.org/2008/08/born-in-the-usa/)
Birthers won't admit it, but they are outraged because President Obama's parents were a biracial couple. (Photo from http://www.blackcelebkids.com/2008/11/05/barack-obama-family-albumpictures-of-his-parentskidsmothergrandparents/).
As the site reported, “FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates).”
Hawaii officials repeatedly attested to the authenticity of Obam’s birth records. “I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawai’i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai’i State Department of Health verifying Barrack (sic) Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen,” one official declared in 2008 and 2009 statements.” ( More is at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53563_Page3.html#ixzz1ndquREBl.)
Barack Obama as a typical American child with an untypical future. (Photo from http://www.offbeatbuzz.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/child3.jpg).
The "Birther Queen" Orly Taitz believes the president is a foreign born gay murderer. (Photo from the Mediaite website at http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cnns-john-king-manages-to-out-crazy-birther-queen-orly-taitz-in-wild-interview/)
Taitz made a bewildering array of wild accusations against the president, including that he has a vast collection of Social Security numbers and that a witness who knew about the president’s fake IDs was murdered; that he’s a closeted homosexual and that other gays from Obama’s church were murdered to cover up his sexuality; that Obama plans to open concentration camps for opponents like Taitz (these paranoids always places themselves in the middle of the universe); and that Osama Bin Ladin wa killed much earlier than the White House claimed and that the body was hidden and the death not announced until it was needed to distract the public from one of Taitz’ frivolous lawsuits against the president. (These later two charges can be found at Tait's website at http://www.orlytaitzesq.com/?p=21226 I guess the president is a real idiot since revealing the body would have been most useful for him right before the 2010 election when he lost control of the U.S. House. For more on the crazy beliefs of Taitz, see a Salon.com profile of her at http://www.salon.com/2009/08/13/orly_taitz/)
Meanwhile, Birther signs became a staple of Tea Party rallies in 2009. These often badly misspelled signs often not only questioned the president’s citizenship but also his intelligence and thus play to racist stereotypes of black stupidity.
In spite of the objective proof to the contrary, Rush Limbaugh supported the Birthers in June 2009. As reported by The Daily Kos, the rightwing talk show host said, “A friend of mine said, 'Where was Obama born?' And I don't know. He's not a native Hawaiian. Where was he born? I don't know. Supposedly Hawaii, but we don't have independent confirmation of it.” (See http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/04/09/965107/-Rush-Limbaugh:-Portrait-of-a-Birther)
In her dread fear that a camera might be focused on somebody else, failed Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin cynically winked at Birtherism, while hypocritically complaining about the equally bizarre birther theories concerning her son Trig. (Trig Birthers believe that Sarah Palin is not the mother of her youngest son. They say that the real mother is her daughter Bristol or some unknown third party. The fraud, Trig Birthers argue, was motivated by either Sarah Palin's desire to protect her daughter's reputation after one out-of-marriage wedlock, or to earn sympathy from voters because of the child's Down Syndrome. The photo above is from the DelawareOnline site at http://www.delawareonline.com/blogs/2008/10/libe-blog-bidenpalin-debate.html. For more on loony Trig Birtherism, see http://www.salon.com/2011/04/22/sarah_palin_trig_conspiracy_theory/. For more on Sarah Palin's hypocritical attacks on Trig Birithers, see http://www.mediaite.com/online/sarah-palin-blasts-andrew-sullivan-as-a-trigtruther-conspiracy-kook-writer/)
GOP House Rep and failed presidential aspirant Michele Bachmann would repeatedly flirt with Birtherism too. (http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/02/michele_bachmann_toes_the_birt.html). Huckster Donald Trump would base his whole phony presidential campaign in 2011 on the issue. (See http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/02/nation/la-na-gop-birthers-trump-20110502 and http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/04/what-donald-trumps-birther-investigators-will-find-in-hawaii/237198/) In March 2011 Trump even claimed he had sent investigators to Hawaii to investigate Obama’s birth who found “amazing things.” (See http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/05/21/donald-trump-celebrity-apprentice-fact-checking-claims/)
In despair because someone else was getting attention, Palin had to jump into the issue once again in early 2011, announcing she “appreciated” Trump’s devotion to the non-issue. (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/sarah-palin-appreciates-donald-trumps-birther-questions/story?id=13342475) Solely, it seems, on his Birtherism, Trump briefly shot to the top in polls of GOP voters. (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/155699-gop-presidential-hopefuls-wrestle-with-how-to-handle-trump)
The Obama political team miscalculated, fearing that if they engaged in a debate with the Birthers they would give credibility and greater visibility to what they hoped was a fringe movement. They forgot that when a lie gets repeated enough it takes on the veneer of the truth. By March 2011, more Republicans believed that the President had been born in Africa than those who believed he had been born in the United States.
As the number of Americans doubting Obama's American citizenship remained stubbornly high, the White House - already struggling politically because of the recession -- decided to ask the state of Hawaii to make a special case and release the long-awaited "long form" birth certificate. Released in April, 2011 the long form said what the earlier short form did and exactly what rational people had always believed: that he was born in Hawaii. We also learned his birthweight and other trivia. The form also did not identify Obama's father as a practicing Muslin as some Birthers claimed it would. (See http://jonathanturley.org/2011/04/27/birth-of-a-nation-obama-releases-long-form-birth-certificate/
The Obama birth certificate. (Photo from FactCheck.org at http://www.factcheck.org/2008/08/born-in-the-usa/)
Trump who had hinted that his private investigators had uncovered some sinister secret about Obama's origins, backed off that lie and now bragged that he alone had forced the president to release the form. "Today, I am very proud of myself because I accomplished something no one else has been able to accomplish," the blowhard narcissist announced. "Why he didn't do it earlier when everybody else was asking for it I don't know. But I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue." Trump indeed accomplished something. He made the country seem completely idiotic and racist to the entire world.
Predictably, when Obama finally got the the long form released, the Birthers instantly insisted this evidence was also fake. Orly Taitz instantly declared it a fraud, insisting (with no legal foundation) that the form should have identified Obama's race as "Negro," not "African." Others claimed to have discovered errors in the certificate numbers.
Phil Berg, one of the earliest Birthers, said, "I not that concerned with the birth certificate. Unless there is evidence that he renounced his Indonesian citizenship, we believe he is an illegal president." (Obama never became an Indonesian citizen. See http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-04-27/politics/29989380_1_birther-movement-citizenship-berg-claims)
Phil Berg: one of the original Birthers. He says that Obama renounced his citizenship in Indonesia. Obama lived in Indonesia with his family there when he was between the ages of six and 10 and there is no record of the future president making a childhood renunciation of his U.S. citizenship.
(Photo from http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-04-27/politics/29989380_1_birther-movement-citizenship-berg-claims)
GOP candidates who manipulatively encouraged the Birthers now backed away. Shown a copy of Obama's long form birth certificate during an ABC broadcast in April 2011 by George Stephanapoulos, Bachmann said, "Well, then, that should settle it . . . I take the president at his word and -- I think -- again I would have no problem and apparently the president wouldn't either. Introduce that, we're done. Move on." (See http://hotair.com/archives/2011/04/20/michele-bachmann-obamas-certification-of-live-birth-is-good-enough-for-me/)
She made her most crudely racist comments since she took up the Birther cause, comparing the black president to janitors and field hands.. "Somebody who wouldn't be good enough, who wouldn't be certified to pick tomatoes or clean bathrooms is sitting in the White House," Taitz insisted to Gingrich. Gingrich told her that would be a good project for her to pursue but that he had enough issues to debate with Obama. (See file:///Users/michaelphillips/Desktop/Birthirism/Newt%20Gingrich%20Dismisses%20Birther%20Question%20From%20Orly%20Taitz.webarchive)
That doesn't stop Gingrich from engaging in soft Birtherism, from linking Obama with Africa in barely more subtle ways. In September 2010, Gingrich made these comments:
"What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?" Gingrich asked. "That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."
Newt Gingrich practices a soft form of Birtherism, simply suggesting that Obama acts and thinks like a foreigner. (Photo from http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2010/08/18/norquist-and-gingrich-debating-a-mosque-near-ground-zero/).
This dubious comment, drawn from a typically Neanderthal, black-hating book by right-wing ideologue Dinesh D’Souza, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, suggests that Obama was deeply influenced by the alleged attitudes of a Kenyan father he barely saw. But accurate biography is not the point – Gingrich wants to link Obama with Kenya, its supposed anti-Americanism, and make the president sound like he’s an alien. (In spite of his history Ph.D., Gingrich apparently doesn’t know that the Founding Fathers in America fought a revolution to end their colonial status, which would make them . . . anti-colonial. For more see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/12/gingrich-obama-kenyan-worldview_n_713686.html)
Gingrich's followers are more hard core Birthers, and more openly white supremacist. In Florida in late January, Gingrich told his all-white audience. "Let's send Obama back to Chicago." The crowd had another destination in mind. "Kenya! Kenya! Kenya!" they shouted. (See http://www.dailyiowan.com/2012/01/31/Opinions/26748.html)
In the modern GOP, concepts backed with mountains of data like evolution and global warming invite derision. White supremacist fantasies like Birtherism thrive in defiance of reality. It's comforting to imagine that Birtherism will fade when Obama likely wins a second term and that it's a marginal viewpoint. That, unfortunately is as much a delusion as Birtherism itself. Negrophobia lives in the soul of the modern GOP. And it's elites like Gingrich, Palin and others who who keep feeding this beast.