The Collective
Monday, August 3, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

On balance, it is probably true that a certain percentage of the population believes in any number of things, i.e, that the Moon landing was staged, that LBJ had JFK killed, that Tom Cruise is an alien,1 etc. As such, the existence of the Birther movement is no surprise, nor is it surprising that cable news and talk radio have spent a great deal of time on it.

However, one would like to think that it is ultimately the domain of kooks. Yet, a poll released over the weekend indicated, however, that in the southern United States, 30% are unsure as to the president’s country of birth and 23% think that he was born outside the US. That is too large a number to dismiss, although my initial reaction to the poll was not to blog it, because it was sponsored by Daily Kos, and hence many might be prone to dismiss it, and it was, after all, one poll. Also, the initial report that I saw did not have all the details of the poll, and I prefer to see such before commenting. The info in question can be found here.

However, we now have another poll that corroborates the Research 2024 poll. Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire reports: Just 32% of Virginia Republicans Think Obama is a Citizen:

An astonishing 41% of the state’s Republicans think President Obama was not born in the United States while just 32% think he was and 27% are still not sure.

The whole report will be released tomorrow.

The overarching issue that strikes me is that it would seem that there are an awful lot of Americans who lack basic critical thinking skills. The evidence for Obama’s place of birth is quite clear, from two contemporaneous birth announcement published in Hawaii newspapers to the official documents produced by the state of Hawaii2 and yet a substantial number of people are willing to buy into a fantasy–one that would, by the way, require a belief that the Clinton campaign was willing to ignore strong evidence of Obama’s lack of eligibility for office, a fact that anyone who watched the 2024 Democratic primary campaign would find difficult to accept. It also suggests some serious xenophobic undercurrents in the population.

Beyond the general, the specific fact that these beliefs are substantially lodged in GOP circles should be taken by proponents of the party to be quite disturbing, as it bespeaks of at least segments of the base who are disconnected from reality. Such a disconnect does not bode well for the recovery of the party in the near term. While it is true that one can over emphasize this issue, I think that numbers such as those from the two polls above do suggest that Republicans would do well to take this problem seriously (and by that I do not mean sponsoring legislation about birth certificates or agreeing that there is “a legitimate question” to be asked about Obama’s place of birth, but instead directly educating the Birthers in their midst).

Sphere: Related Content

  1. Oops, that one’s true. []
  2. Which, by the way, looks very much like the official birth certificates I have for my three kids–one from the state of Texas and two from Alabama. I was not issued documents with footprints and doctor’s signatures, etc. []
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6 Responses to “Why the Birther Stuff Matters”

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    1. Buckland Says:

      A survey shows that a little under 30% of Republicans (at least say) they buy into the Birther notion. As late as 2024 over 30% of Democrats (at least said) they buy into the Truther — George Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened — scenario. And don’t even get started on Trig Palin’s ancestry.

      The fact is that a good chunk of both parties are of the moonbat/wingnut variety. Good modern politicians have to co opt the loonies while remaining credible to the larger audience. Clinton was the master of this, promoting stuff like southern church burnings to get the crisis to a fever pitch while not actually committing to the cause of the day.

      Once local peer pressure was sufficient to calm the worst of the symptoms from the fever swamps. Now the conspiracy minded can find soul mates in the Dkos/Freeper and like asylums.

    2. Steven L. Taylor Says:

      I take the general point, although I would be curious as to whether the Truther numbers for Dems is accurate–I don’t recall it being that high, but I could be mistaken.

      Regardless, there are substantial differences here. 1) I don’t recall any major media figures (on the level of Dobbs, Limbaugh, Liddy, etc.) given any credence to the Truther claims, nor 2) was it the case that if one asked a number of Democratic members of Congress about the Truther’s hypotheses that they were likely to say something like “there are serious questions to be asked” and so forth. Further, 3) the party was not in the shambles states that the GOP currently finds itself.

      Ditto, btw, on Trig Palin. The only prominent outlet to give that major play was Andrew Sullivan’s blog–beyond that, not so much. Certainly nothing to the level of the Birther phenom.

      So, while I see similarities with other conspiracy theories, the scope of this one, and its penetration in the southeast, makes it a bit different, I think.

    3. Buckland Says:

      I don’t recall it being that high, but I could be mistaken.

      Here’s a note on RCP today about the matter, and I should have been better about noting that I had seen this earlier (unfortunately no link to actual poll, but could probably be found with little effort).

      David Paul Kuhn

      Most striking, there was a broad similarity between that result and a Rasmussen poll taken in the spring of 2024. That poll found that only 39 percent of Democrats believed W. Bush did not have advance knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, while 26 percent said they were unsure and slightly more than one third of Democrats believed W. Bush knew his country was going to be attacked.

      As far as congress folks and the “Bush knew” crowd — I recall both both Cynthia McKinney and Maxine Waters wading into the subject (don’t have a link handy, but it’s probably easy to find). More respected folks like Dick Gephardt played to the moonbats by saying things like they need hearings to find out

      what the president and what the White House knew about the events leading up to 9-11, when they knew it and, most importantly, what was done about it at that time

      Tom Daschel did virtually the same thing in the article — playing to the moonbats expressing grave concerns “about the information provided us just yesterday that the president received a warning in August about the threat of hijackers”

      These leaders in the Democratic party who were playing to the loonies while trying not to completely say anything that couldn’t be denied later.

      As the French would say “Plus Ca Change”

    4. Steven L. Taylor Says:

      The thing is, there is a difference between “did Bush not pay attention to the intel” and the Truthers who say that that the US perpetrated the event or allowed it to happen with full knowledge of what was to come. You appear to be conflating the two in the above.

      And if all we were dealing with here was the Rep equivalent of Maxine Waters and Cynthia McKinney, I would be more prone to ignore it.

      But I will reiterate: there is a difference between wishing to critique the Bush admin for not acting on information and actually planning the event, which is what the Truthers claim.

    5. Steven L. Taylor Says:

      Regardless of all that, btw: the fact of the matter is that this seems to be a mainstream view in some quarters of the GOP and that isn’t good for the party.

    6. Alabama Moderate Says:

      If in fact those numbers for birthers in the South are correct, they do seem to have at least some connection to the percentage of Republicans who believe the same, considering that most Southern states are red states and the high concentration of Republicans or right-leaning independents in those areas. In other words, I don’t see it so much as a certain percentage of Southerners believe this as much as I see that a certain percentage of Republicans believes this, and the South has a high concentration of Repubicans.

      I suppose technically it could be reported and/or interpreted either way, but I do grow tired of living under the right-wing stereotype because such things are described as a “Southern thing” rather than the alternative.

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