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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Whack-A-Mole

The devolution of the latest bout of birther hysteria, culminating in the White House release today of the president’s “long form” birth certificate (long the document birthers have demanded), is a pretty good indication of how thoroughly fringe conspiracy theories have saturated conservative politics and media.
The birther nonsense was a minor crazy-person “issue” in the 2008 presidential campaign. Afterwards, for no apparent reason other than constant repetition by right-wing blogs and web sites (notably WorldNetDaily) who influenced more conventional media like Fox, it grew and grew, eventually capturing a major segment of the Republican rank-and-file. Inevitably, a demagogue thinking about a presidential campaign seized on it, shot to the top of the GOP polls, and legitimized birtherism even more.
Now that the manufactured controversy has been definitively answered, Donald Trump is taking credit for “solving” the great puzzle of the president’s origins, but has already moved on to other contrived sets of “questions,” demanding Obama’s school records, and even more obnoxiously, reviving the Bill-Ayers-Wrote-Obama’s-book crap that surfaced during the presidential campaign.
And it’s not just Trump. On Fox last night, when commenting on (and defending) birtherism, Sarah Palin also made an offhand reference to Ayers perhaps writing Dreams From My Father.
You can certainly understand the evil utility of the Ayers “story,” which not only makes the president the terrorist-lover that Palin liked to talk about on the campaign trail in 2008, but also feeds all sorts of racist memes about Obama’s intelligence (as do the “questions” about his academic record).
What it all really illustrates is the endless game of “whack-a-mole” required when responding to “allegations” about the president involving conspiracy theories and invented “facts” that start with disreputable sources and invariably bleed over into conservative-activist email chatter, right-wing blogs, and eventually to Fox and actual Republican politicians.
Serious conservatives need to repudiate this idiocy once and for all, but they also need to meditate a bit on their own demonization of Obama and his policies, which has made it very easy for rank-and-file Republicans to believe the man wears horns. As it stands now, there’s every reason to assume many opinion-leaders on the right get a kick out of it, or at least find it useful so long as it doesn’t elevate Donald Trump or Sarah Palin to the White House.

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