Sometimes you can ignore the wingnuts, sometimes you can't.Now is one of those times for Republicans. If the GOP really wants to rebuild itself as a party of the future, the first thing Republicans should do is tell off the violent extremists, racists, and birthers that have popped up on their radar of late.
Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts made this point in a piece published Tuesday:
I make no argument that the Democrats are untainted by bigotry. Rather, my argument is that the GOP is consumed by it, riddled with it, that it has shown, sown, shaped and been shaped by it, to an abhorrent degree.
You think that's unfair? Well, after [Sherri] Goforth's e-mail, after "Barack the Magic Negro," and John McCain's campaign worker blaming a fictional black man for a fictional mugging, and a party official in Texas renaming the executive mansion "the black house," and an official in Virginia claiming Obama's presidency would see free drugs and "mandatory black liberation theology," and a Republican activist in South Carolina calling an escaped ape one of Michelle Obama's "ancestors," it seems wholly fair to me. Indeed, overdue.
And keep in mind: all that is just from the last year or so. I could draw up a much longer list but space is limited and there is a final point to make.
Pitts' final point is that he knows "Republicans of racial enlightenment" who will protest that racism has no place in the GOP. And he urges these people to make that clear to members of their own party.
I agree with Pitts' argument, but it's not going to happen anytime soon. The problem is that the GOP is flailing and they don't want to risk alienating anyone, even racists. Conservatives don't want to lose the bigot vote; it's bigger than you'd think. Besides, which Republican leader is going to take that scary and difficult step?
It's not just ideological support either; racists and other wackos bring in cold, hard cash. Case in point is the newly unveiled campaign on World Net Daily (WND), a conservative commentary site, to whip up fervor over the flagging birther movement that insists President Obama was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to be president. The site has announced its billboard campaign and is offering a $10,000 prize to "anyone who can provide persuasive evidence of involvement or presence at" Obama's birth.
Now, I don't mean to say that WND is just doing it for the money, but in the lead of this story hawking the idea, WND editor and CEO Joseph Farah himself calls it a "national fund-raising campaign."
"HAVE YOU PURCHASED YOUR WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE BUMPER STICKER YET?? HAVE YOU JOINED THE THOUSANDS OF WND SUPPORTERS WHO ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE BILLBOARD CAMPAIGN??" WND asks.
I don't know how the fundraising is going so far; my media request to WND went unreturned as of press time (despite WND's offer of interviews with Farah to the media at the bottom of the article announcing the campaign).
Of course Farah would likely insist that the money raised goes to billboards and those who can prove Obama's citizenry. But in reality, with the level of proof necessary for the birther movement, no one could ever offer enough. The fact that they throw a polygraph test and a WND interview into the requirements is indicative of their motivation. The $10,000 offer is a risk-free jolt to the birther movement.
Birthers get around the inconvenient fact that Obama's birth certificate exists and has already been released by demanding a so-called "long-form" certificate. Thing is, Hawaii no longer issues "long form" certificates of live birth. The birth certificate Obama has released is as official as it gets.
Even still, birthers are gearing up for a denial of a long-form certificate, should it be released. There's a conspiracy brewing already about how the administration has printed a fake long-form certificate and is now "seasoning" it to make it appear old.Fritz Wenzel, who was a pollster for Zogby before opening his own polling firm, did a survey of people's awareness of the birther claims. For reference, Wenzel's last three polls before this one were on behalf of Ohio Right to Life, another for WND (which hysterically claims that "half of all adults in America believe there has been a decrease in personal freedom under the Obama Administration, which signals a significant degree of alarm across a wide swath of the country over where the new president may be taking the country") and one about people in Columbus who oppose an income tax hike.
The most recent poll he did for WND is not only of dubious significance (it was an automated phone poll and the lead was simply that Americans are aware of the controversy, not that they endorse the voracity of the claims made by birthers), but also it has clear elements of a push poll.
For example, this poll question was a clear attempt to manufacture controversy: "What is your view of the fact Obama has not released his educational records?" Regardless of the fact that this claim has been thoroughly debunked by the Annenberg Center's FactCheck.org as an April Fool's hoax, the question is asked in a misleading way that is not consistent with impartial polling standards.
Thanks to the good folks at Fact Check, we have a detailed explanation of the manufactured controversy over the birth certificate as well. They also posted a copy of Obama's birth certificate on their site (Obama's Fight the Smears Web site has an online version available for download as well), contending that "the document should put to rest groundless speculation raised on some conservative Web sites that Obama might not have been born in the U.S." Fact Check staff has reportedly seen and touched the original birth certificate since.
There is also a wealth of secondary evidence of Obama's Hawaiian birth on the Web. For example, this site has PDFs of separate birth announcements in two Hawaii newspapers.
Even writer Bill Dupray at Patriot Room (can someone explain their motto to me? "On Politics, We Can Always See the Whites of Their Eyes") admits in an update that after Hawaiian officials confirmed that they released a copy to Obama (the only person who can legally receive one), the case was pretty much closed.
But facts don't really matter much to the birther movement. Doing a quick Google search of "obama + birth + certificate" yielded some disturbing results. A couple of examples:
This blogger (whose blogroll includes encouragement to "check out these sites for whites," mostly a listing of white supremacist blogs) calls the lack of media coverage of the Obama birth certificate story "Censorship from the Zionist Power Structure."
This one calls the president an "animal" with "black fur" by way of filling out a "Build-a-Bear" form and calling it Obama's birth certificate. Hilarious.
I'd be remiss to leave out the fact that racist and alleged Holocaust Museum killer James von Brunn was also a birther. Of course, there are birthers out there who will take umbrage with that statement. For example: this guy, who separates himself from von Brunn, and then in the next breath calls Obama a "marxist [sic], black separatist, and first muslim [sic] in the White House; refused to release his records or answer questions about how he could travel to Pakistan when only muslims [sic] were allowed there." He goes on, but it gets too graphic to print.
After writing about the baselessness of birther claims, this site was slammed with racist comments and inundated with click-throughs from a joke site that uses in its URL a racist slur I will not repeat here. The writer of the original article calls the phenomenon "another indication that the Barack Obama birth certificate issue is driven by people who can't stand to see a black man in the White House."
And I can't even begin describe the offensiveness of this disgustingly racist image created by a birther (click at your own discretion).
It's certainly probable that not all birthers are racists. But the movement has clearly been discredited by the facts on Obama's side and the bigotry on the other. The fact that WND seeks to raise money and their advertising profile from such hateful, ignorant and/or confused people is depressing. But it's certainly less than surprising. Farah has stoked the flame of this birth certificate non-story for a long time, even though his own Web site debunked it way back in August of last year.
Columnist Pitts' call to Republicans to dismiss the racists from the GOP table aside, I know it's an embarrassing time to be a conservative. I don't blame Republicans for not wanting to admit the part bigotry plays in the political views of some of their adherents.
But racists embarrass all truly patriotic Americans, no matter what political persuasion. I don't want to be part of any two-party system where bigotry is allowed to fester unmentioned, no matter which side fosters it.
As Barbara Simpson, WND's "Babe in the Bunker," suggests that when celebrating Independence Day this year we "introduce a touch of black, and I'm not talking about skin color" in order to mourn the death of freedom in our country, I will mourn the death of an opposition party that is honest with itself and its members.