Political Animal


July 12, 2012 5:08 PM Can’t Keep a Bad Idea Down

By Ed Kilgore

As John Sides notes at Ten Miles Square, a new survey from YouGov indicates that the birther concept, which lost ground when the president’s long-form birth certificate was released, is back, strong as ever.

YouGov’s Adam Berinsky reports that not only has birtherism made a general comeback, but it’s also reassumed its position as a plurality conviction of self-identified Republicans. As Berinskly comments blandly:

These results again demonstrate that rumors and innuendo remain powerful forces in American politics. Once set loose, they are hard to undo.

No kidding. It’s important to understand that this isn’t just some natural, healthy exhibition of the “polarized” partisan tendency to think the worst of the opposition. Many Democrats may well believe Mitt Romney is a robotic corporate shill who would govern the nation horribly. But no one thinks he wasn’t born where he says he was born, or is not constitutionally qualified to serve as president.

Maybe I’m wrong about this, but were someone to start a rumor that Romney was actually born in Mexico as part of a secret rite whereby his parents swore allegiance to the polygamist views of their own forebears, and then hustled over the border to assume full American citizenship, I don’t think anything like a plurality of Democrats would buy it. They think Mitt’s an alien from normal American middle-class life, but wouldn’t take “alien” literally. That’s the big difference between “polarized” partisans these days.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Joe Friday on July 12, 2012 5:25 PM:

    "....I don't think anything like a plurality of Democrats would buy it."

    Because not even a plurality of Democrats are racist.

  • c u n d gulag on July 12, 2012 5:36 PM:

    If Obama was a white male Republican President, after saving the economy, Detroit, and providing health care for everyone, they'd be lauding him, and saying, "Look at all he's done! WE CAN'T CHANGE HORSES IN MIDSTREAM! WE CAN'T CHANGE HORSES IN MIDSTREAM!!!"

    Of course, as Centrist a Democrat as Obama is, and Black, they can't say that.

    They have to demonize him as, "SOME OTHER (Cue the soundtrack from "Psycho").
    So, the best thing to do, is to make him some ferrin other.

  • T2 on July 12, 2012 5:46 PM:

    one thing I've always been surprised about - Barack Obama's mother is white, and he was essentially raised by his white grandparents. I think that must get under the racist's skin worse than if he'd been the son of a black couple.
    My late Republican mom, who proudly said she was a racist, thought Colin Powell and Condi Rice were just fine...no problem because they were "clean, educated blacks" (and bald-faced liars). Now Obama is as "clean" a black guy as you'll ever find, and he's certainly educated. But he's reviled by the GOPers. Weird.

  • David Carlton on July 12, 2012 5:55 PM:

    Actually, the YouGov poll asks simply if the respondent thinks Obama was born in the US. It doesn't ask if he's a citizen, or if he's constitutionally qualified to be POTUS. Note that the great mass of low-information respondents out there don't necessarily know these implications; a fair number of them probably think he wasn't born in the US because he was born in Hawaii [Some big-name journalists have actually made that bonehead mistake]. Certainly a fair number aren't aware of the constitutional issues involved; they just know that Obama has a not-quite-"American" name and they hear a lot of talk. Frankly, I don't think it's something to waste time on; it's rather like the periodic "discovery" that a majority of Americans are creationists.

  • Peter C on July 12, 2012 5:56 PM:

    They've got birthers in charge of ELECTIONS (the Secretary of State in Arizona)! If the GOP stay in control, they'll be checking papers when they've shown that the are willing to disbelieve official Hawaii documents, based on ..... delusions and absurd conspiracy theories.

    Will they believe your papers when you go to vote?

  • SamBrown on July 12, 2012 5:59 PM:

    Very well put, Mr. Kilgore. That last paragraph in particular, really sums things up. When a Republican gets elected President the vast majority of Democrats shrug and hope he doesn't do too much harm. When a Democrat gets elected the Republicans proceed to try and "take down".

  • exlibra on July 12, 2012 7:01 PM:

    They think Mitt’s an alien from normal American middle-class life, but wouldn’t take “alien” literally. -- Ed Kilgore

    Please speak for yourself, Mr Kilgore. Personally, I'm certain-sure that Mittens was born on some distant planet that not even Isaac Asimov has ever heard of.

    He was constructed via a "SEXUAL landepow", concurs Craptcha.

  • Skip on July 12, 2012 7:10 PM:

    I imagine the conservative propaganda machine, this being an election year and all, is pumping out daily reminders of all the GOP fact-challenged talking points to keep them fresh in the minds of the voters. Otherwise, Joe Q. Republican might accidentally forget that Obama wants to turn this country Muslim, take away our guns, hand us over to the UN World Government, and give all the money the Koch Brothers waste buying elections to poor black kids for education or something equally horrible and selfish.

  • Doug on July 12, 2012 7:35 PM:

    Perhaps the Republicans should adopt something along the lines of "Ya gotta believe what ya gotta believe" as the motto for the 21st century GOP?
    You know, save the "reality" for those shows on teevee...

  • xaxnar on July 12, 2012 7:50 PM:

    Let's see: all those SEC documents listing Romney as still running Bain years after Romney claimed he left mean nothing - but one birth certificate? OMG!!!

  • John on July 13, 2012 12:04 AM:

    Tongue in cheek, Mitt is clearly an alien escaped from the MIB movie franchise.

  • Matt McIrvin on July 13, 2012 7:42 AM:

    The rough left equivalent was the "9/11 was an inside job" conspiracy theory. But it was never anything like a plurality view among Democrats; it was strictly a fringe thing.