It’s somewhat astonishing to consider how our President with a funny name continues to engender a new and unique kind of hatred and derision among a certain population in this country. It’s not so much about his policies, (most of which they’d be misinformed about, anyway), but about the nature and location of his birth.
I’m convinced that someone could dig up a Super8 movie of Barack Obama being born, which also shops the sign indicating that the hospital is in Hawaii, with Diamond Head in the background, and still, that wouldn’t satisfy the incredibly stupid.
Despite the fact that President Obama asked the State of Hawaii to release his long form birth certificate in April 2011, dead-ender birthers still exist, and are making some distinctly ignorant noise about prohibiting Obama from appearing on ballots in 2012. Late last week, a group of birthers, led by a California lawyer, tried to get Obama removed from the ballot in New Hampshire. When that state’s Ballot Law Commission refused to do so, birthers in the gallery started yelling “traitor!” and “treason”, because those are now shorthand for “I disagree with you!”
In the comparatively short time I’ve been paying attention to politics, the vitriol with which we attack the other side – of an issue, of an aisle – has reached quite literally comical levels. Birtherism is a mere symptom of our penchant to delegitimize our opponents, and I think it began in earnest during the Clinton administration. Our 90s two-termer carved a middle way between liberalism and conservatism, which often enraged both groups. Those on the right, however, didn’t just attack Clinton’s beliefs or policies; they attacked the very notion that he was fit to serve at all. That this draft dodging, pot-smoking, hippie womanizing liar would dare to co-opt certain Republican platform planks, and that his uppity wife might want to get involved in reforming a horribly broken health care insurance system were too much; he had to be not just opposed, but destroyed.
Just ask Ken Starr.
So, when genuine issues about the 2000 vote in Florida arose, the left retaliated against George W. Bush, whom they still consider to be the worst President ever, brought into office on gold-plated rails thanks to a corrupt, politicized conservative Supreme Court that suddenly discovered the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection clause”.
Bush won re-election in 2004, but not before a group supporting him took John Kerry’s Vietnam heroism and defiled it with lies. Kerry couldn’t just be defeated – he had to be destroyed as a person.
So, when you have a multicultural President in uncertain economic times, the crazies come out in full force. He’s a communist usurper who wasn’t born here, is an Indonesian/Kenyan Marxist hell-bent on turning Bill Ayers into the Emperor of the Politburo. It’s the second revenge of the Bushists.
The 2012 Republican field of arguably viable candidates runs the gamut from “batsh*t insane” to “completely insincere panderer”. They have a unique opportunity to re-brand themselves and mount a serious challenge against an embattled President with very bad poll numbers and a crap economy, yet they can’t get that together. Mitt Romney appears to be the least offensive, least insane, likely nominee. In 1996, it wasn’t much different, what with Bob Dole emerging as the least repugnant from a cast including Christianist Alan Keyes, “Single Issue Steve” Forbes, and Nazi apologist Pat Buchanan.
The tit-for-tat is phenomenal in that the same crowd that impeached Clinton over perjury in a sexual harassment civil lawsuit are now denying the very existence of “sexual harassment” as a societal ill, a crime, or a tort.
The vitriol and the deepening of socioeconomic and political cleaves that’s taken place over the last 20 – 30 years, and the lingering nature of the Great Recession and the 2008 bailouts have left us with a fundamentally broken national political system. The Occupy movement, which belongs to no one, seems to be articulating a Great Rejection in our politics and economy – a post-Reaganist re-engineering of societal priorities seems to be in order.
It’s a shame political disingenuousness isn’t an exportable good or commodity. At least then, we’d put a dent in the trade deficit.