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Why Trump and the Birthers Won’t Go Away

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 6/6/2012, 9:35 a.m.

Why Trump and the Birthers Won’t Go Away

President Obama was indeed prophetic when he said at a press conference a year ago that his release of his long-form birth certificate would not convince countless numbers of anti-Obama skeptics that he was a bona fide American.

Nearly a year after the president called it right on the bogus issue, the Public Policy Polling survey of GOP voters in Georgia, Tennessee, and more troubling, Ohio — because it’s the key battleground state — found that more than one-third of GOP voters still didn’t believe he was born in the U.S.

The same high degree of doubt about Obama’s birth likely would be found among GOP voters in other states. Billionaire professional Obama basher, Donald Trump, almost certainly knew that, and that he recently spoke for untold millions when he calculatingly lashed out at Obama again with the phony birther charge.

Before Trump shoved the issue back into public debate, the hope was that, despite the president’s warning and fear, and the negative poll findings, birtherism had become a non-election issue. This seemed even more the case when GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the top GOP presidential contenders during the GOP primary campaign, all publicly rejected the birther claim about Obama.

But their public rejection of it, as Trump has amply shown, won’t put the issue to rest simply because birtherism is a serviceable political chip for the GOP. In the months immediately before and after the president released his long-form certificate, bills were introduced in 14 states that required presidential candidates to show ironclad proof of their U.S. birth. None of the bills passed. However, the mere fact of introducing the birth certificate requirement legislation in these states was just enough to continue to fan the flames of anti-Obama sentiment.

There’s even more to this apparent crackpot stuff. The scurrilous ultraconservative attack line against Obama from the moment that he announced his presidential candidacy in 2007 is that he’s unpatriotic, a closet socialist and Islamic radical. This fit in with a tact that the GOP has honed over four decades and that’s to attack the character of Democratic presidential candidates and presidents.

This ploy sows public seeds of doubt about Democrats even deeper, deflects attention from the real issues of the economy, health care education and foreign policy concerns. In the case of Obama, the birther issue has an added payoff. It reinforces the latent and overt bigotry among many GOP voters, and more than a few Democrats. That was sadly apparent in polls that show some Democrats still won’t back Obama solely because of race.

White Democrats in a recent Democratic primary in West Virginia went much further than anti-Obama racial talk and gave a white Texas felon running against Obama a significant number of their votes.

Add to that the legion of websites, bloggers, and the conservative site WorldNetDaily, and the pack of right-wing talk show hosts, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, that relentlessly pound on the issue. They are read, watched, listened to and believed by millions of Americans. The birther issue is and always will be alive and well with them. It’s driven in part by naked racism, and in part by the GOP’s loathing of Obama’s economic policies, and moderate political views.