You get the feeling that it's not the original headline. WorldNetDaily's "Shocker! Most Americans know of Obama eligibility questions" really doesn't seem like much of a shocker. The non-flabbergasting revelation comes from a poll the wingnut site ran last month. They found that, despite a "near media blackout on coverage," people know about the birthers. The earth failed to shatter.
Not content to spend money on a poll that didn't generate a lot of news, WND spun other results into something more newsworthy -- if false:
It may be the issue few in the media dare address, but a new scientific public opinion survey of a cross-section of Americans shows they are not only aware of questions about Barack Obama's constitutional eligibility for office, but almost half are either "troubled" by the questions or believe he should release all relevant documents including his long-form birth certificate.
"Our polling shows that the questions surrounding Barack Obama's eligibility to serve as president clearly strike a nerve across America, probably because it is a problem that everybody understands," said pollster Fritz Wenzel. "Every American citizen has a birth certificate, and once in a while we all have to produce them to get a drivers license or gain entrance to school. Everyone understands the simple rules – if you don't produce it, you don't get in. And while Obama did get in to the White House, nearly half the country's adults –- 49 percent –- are troubled by this issue and still want him to produce his official long-form birth certificate."
Except they aren't. Not if you read WND's own polling data correctly. At his War Room blog at Salon, Alex Koppelman dug through the data and found that a whopping 8% -- to be exact, 7.8% -- actually said they were "troubled" by the issue. WND gets their 49% figure by including those who say that Obama should release all the documents the birthers want. So they get their number by including 41% who never said they were "troubled" -- who knows, maybe they want the documents released (not knowing those documents don't actually exist -- not for Obama nor anyone else) because they want the birthers to finally shut up.
And this demonstrates the problem with the birther phenomenom -- they don't really feel all that bound by fact. There's a certain percentage of the population who seems to think they get to choose what's truth, that reality will bend to their will if they just wish hard enough. Any trivial little detail is enough to throw every accepted truth out the window. If you want to experience this yourself, try to educate a creationist. It cannot be done. They protect their ignorance with everything they have. So, if only 8% share their views, they'll choose to believe that 49% are with them. And they'll find some way to make that true. They lie to themselves and they believe it.
Of course, it's a free country and with that comes the freedom to be just as ignorant as you want to be. If believing that Barack Obama's an illegal alien is what blows your dress up, then knock yourself out. If believing half of America is as crazy as you are makes you happy then, by all means, make yourself crazy. But don't be extremely surprised when reality intrudes into your carefully constructed delusion and slaps you upside your fool head.
Which is what's happening right now. Republicans have learned that, since gullible cranks tend to believe what they want to believe, it's good politics to pretend to be on their side. You saw it with the religious right for decades; Republicans make noise about their issues at election time, then get right to work on tax cuts, gutting environmental regulations. and giving corporate handouts once they get elected. As a result, after years of electing supposedly "pro-life" politicians, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. The nuts never seem to realize that all these ultra-pious and righteous politicians they keep voting for rarely get around to being ultra-pious or righteous once they're in office.
And the same is now true of the birthers. A Politico piece out yesterday showed that many Republicans aren't willing to say they're with them and not willing to say they're against them. If the GOP is playing the birthers, they're also afraid of them. 8% may not seem like much until you start thinking about the math. That 8% is almost entirely Republican and Republicans only make up about a fifth of the population. So, by quick and dirty calculation, birthers may make up as much as 30% of the GOP.
From the Politico article:
...GOP Rep. Mike Castle learned the hard way back home in Delaware this month, there’s no easy way to deal with the small but vocal crowd of right-wing activists who refuse to believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
At a town hall meeting in Georgetown, a woman demanded to know why Castle and his colleagues were “ignoring” questions about Obama’s birth certificate -- questions that have been put to rest repeatedly by state officials in Hawaii, where the birth certificate and all other credible evidence show that Obama was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961.
When Castle countered that Obama is, in fact, “a citizen of the United States,” the crowd erupted in boos, the woman seized control of the gathering and led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The video went viral; by Sunday, it had been viewed on YouTube more than half a million times.
And birthers say members should expect more of the same in the coming weeks.
Like the religious right, birthers are totally cool with ineffectiveness. But come right out and say you aren't going to deal with their wingnut fantasy and things go south in a big hurry.
Which makes this news good fun for Democrats:
[Talking Points Memo:]
The House resolution to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood -- which included language recognizing the state as President Obama's birthplace, in a none-too-subtle jab at the Birthers -- passed this evening by a 378-0 vote.
Among the Yes votes: Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), the lead sponsor of the infamous "Birther Bill" to require presidential candidates to present their birth certificates, and who had previously said he wouldn't "swear on a stack of Bibles" that Obama is a natural-born American citizen. Several other co-sponsors of the Birther Bill also voted yes: Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Dan Burton (R-IN), John Culberson (R-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), and Ted Poe (R-TX).
Now all these people will go back to their districts for the summer recess. Not a single Republican house member was willing to go on the historical record as being against stating plainly that Obama is Hawaiian. They'll attend fundraisers and hold town halls and they'll have to answer to angry kooks who'll want to know why they voted to say that Obama was born in Hawaii. In short, more videos like Mike Castle's embarrassment are on the way. Some of them may even face primary challenges from birther candidates. Others will try to play both sides of the field, slip up, say something insufficiently noncommittal, and wind up in a Democratic opponent's campaign ad.
Some people are putting a lot of time and effort into debunking the birthers. Maybe they should and maybe they shouldn't bother. The birthers themselves are never going to be converted to realism and they aren't converting anyone to fantasy. Meanwhile, the GOP strategy of playing cranks for chumps is finally backfiring.
It's hard for me to argue that this is a bad thing.
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