The birther issue is like a zombie: though it should be dead and buried, it keeps shuffling along. Also like a zombie, it seems to be able to infect and transform people, such as Donald Trump.
Various states have been considering birther legislation, such as Louisiana. The bill being considered would require and affidavit, a birth certificate and a sworn statement identifying a presidential candidate’s place of residence for the past 14 years. There are also comparable requirements for those running for congress. Similar bills have failed in Maine, Connecticut, Montana, and Arizona (by veto). These bills seem to be needless-after all, the constitution requires that the president be a natural citizen and there seems to be no rational reason for individual states to require this sort of proof for candidates. There is also the concern of the bureaucracy that would be needed to handle this paperwork. In any case, these bills seem to be intended to make some sort of political statement against the president. They might also provide a means by which candidates could be kept off ballots. After all, paperwork can be “misplaced” in bureaucracy and other problems can arise proportional to the amount of paper required.
Some potential Republican candidates have taken up the birther cause, such as Donald Trump. Others, such as Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, have stated that they take the president at his word. Karl Rove has claimed that this move has made Trump a “joke candidate” and Rove has consistently attempted to convince Republicans to avoid embracing the birther movement. I’m with Karl on this one and will simply go along with his arguments here.
I do suspect, to a degree, that Trump “embraced” the birther movement to get more air time. After all, as a possible candidate he would get some coverage. However, by appearing to take up the birther cause, he boosts his media coverage significantly. This allows him to generate attention for himself and his TV show (which generates more attention). By being a “joke” candidate, he gives himself a vast amount of free advertising. If he is, in fact, doing this intentionally, then it is certainly clever showmanship. If he really believes what he is saying, then he is a joke.
Of course, there are a lot of people who believe that he is not joking and agree with Trump in this matter. While about 75% of Americans believe that Obama was (or probably was) born in America, 40% of Republicans believe that he was not. This does give some candidates a reason to embrace the birther movement. After all, they can use it to appeal to a fairly significant chunk of the population. However, this does come with an obvious risk. Many of those who are not birthers seem to regard embracing the birther movement as a negative thing. As such, a candidate that appeals to the birthers might do well with them, but fare poorly in a general election.
While the idea of birther embracing candidates is a matter of concern (at least to some folks), what is of greater concern is that fact that about 25% of Americans believe that the president was not born in America, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and the fact that believing this also requires believing many other absurd things. To believe this, they would also presumably have to believe that people in power (including Republicans) are allowing him to stay in office. After all, if Obama really did not meet the citizenship requirement, then John McCain or Hillary Clinton would have been able to simply point this out and Obama would have been out of the running. Since they did not, the birthers must presumably believe that McCain and Clinton are “in on it” and would rather lose to Obama and preserve his secret than expose it. This seems like an absurd thing to believe.
That said, it is worth considering that some birthers say they have doubts about Obama’s place of birth because they do not like him, as opposed to actually believing that he was not born in Hawaii. Then again, it seems likely that many birthers really are true believers.