05 August 2009

Who Cares About the Birthers

Eugene Robinson has published an opinion column in which he asks whether the "birther" phenomenon is "an orchestrated campaign to somehow delegitimize Obama's presidency," before advising readers not to take it seriously, since "taking it seriously would be like arguing about the color of unicorns." My advice to Robinson is "physician, heal thyself." It'd be a lot easier to ignore the birthers if pro-Democratic reporters wouldn't keep dragging them out from under rocks. For every Lou Dobbs who tries to have it both ways by reporting on the controversy itself while seemingly stoking it, there are, it sometimes seems, twice as many MSNBC commentators talking about how terrible Dobbs is. Maybe I just watch that station too often, but doing so has given me the suspicious feeling that some "liberal media" elements are trying to inflate the birthers beyond their actual significance in a conscious effort to discredit the Republican party by association with the lunatic fringe. Robinson, himself a familiar face on MSNBC, cites a survey from a dubious source (Daily Kos, fanatically pro-Democrat) that purports to prove that as many as 58% of surveyed Republicans have doubts or outright disbelieve that the President of the United States is constitutionally eligible for his job. This, Robinson writes, "is a fascinating indicator of just how far the Republican Party has drifted from the mainstream." I really, really doubt that those numbers reflect the truth. The Republicans are bad enough without making most of them look even worse than they are. Worse yet, as I've said before, continuing to publicize the birthers could tempt still more credulous yahoos into believing the buncombe. The best way to deal with the fringe phenomenon of the birthers is to treat it like most other fringe phenomena of political life; ignore them and they'll go away, literally, from your pages, your websites and airwaves, until their beliefs are taken no more seriously than those of the John Birch Society. They still exist, you know, but once people stopped worrying about them about forty years ago, they stopped being something to worry about. Let the birthers find their level in the same fashion.

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