Well, now he’s gone and done it. Yessirree, our Kenyan Moozlum radical soshulist Sharia-promulgating President has apparently released his full, hopelessly official birth certificate. (All the online papers probably lead with this story, so just Google one for yourself.) Birthers across the nation are no doubt spraying their morning tea all over the kitchen table, wondering how to organize their lives in the wake of this catastrophe. “Oh the humanity,” ladies and gentlemen!
So why did the president do such a thing? It is ridiculous that he should have felt it necessary, but at the same time, producing one’s birth certificate, I think the White House must have opined, isn’t the same as getting into a fracas with a covey of your crazy opponents. No, it’s a more final gesture, sort of like throwing down a royal flush at a poker game. You win. All they can do is grumble and pay up. Politically it’s arguably astute in that it takes the wind out of birther sails just as the 2012 campaign is getting underway. I say arguably because it isn’t entirely clear to me why, from a purely Machiavellian electoral standpoint, the Democrats would want to do that – the birthers marginalize the GOP with everyone outside the party, so having them around isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But beyond short-term electoral considerations, the decision may have had something to do with a statesmanlike appreciation of the importance of numbers in a democratic-spirited country. The percentage of Republicans who profess belief that the president is from Mars, or Kenya, or Indonesia, or Canada, or – well, anywhere but the United States – was becoming alarming. Wasn’t it something like 67% when you combine the “don’t know” polling respondents with the “O Hell No, he’s definitely not one of us!” respondents? That’s the combo number I’ve run across a few times.
If two out of three people in one party have been convinced by vicious demagogues (or have convinced themselves even before such help came along) to think you are, or might be, the Brother from Another Planet, I guess you might as well try to set them straight even if it’s a bit embarrassing.
This gesture won’t end what Capt. Fogg aptly calls “Obamahate culture” because that’s founded on racism rooted in centuries of oppression, fear, and rage. But it will probably cut into the numbers – now perhaps only a third, or even (if we want to be optimistic) a fourth or fewer, of Republicans will keep insisting that the President isn’t American and will eventually take that firm belief with them to their graves. That’s still a lot of addled, ignorant, confused or mendacious and dishonorable people to reckon with, but it’s better than two-thirds.
It may not seem like much of a transformation, but I’ve long suggested that ultimately, a small number of percentage points one way or the other means the difference between continued democracy and a rough-beast’s slouch towards dictatorship, plutocracy, or some other unbearable form of government. A small but persistent percentage might make the difference between getting a majority of people to do abominable and stupid things and being rejected by them for making such suggestions.