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By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, April 15, 2011 20:16 EDT
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Don’t forget to give to our Bowl-A-Thon team that’s raising money for abortion access! With the shut down of Medicaid funding for abortion in D.C., the need is greater than ever.

But this post has nothing to do with abortion. I just want to highlight, with amusement, Adam Serwer reporting for the WaPo on the conflict between the Fox News-backed birthers and the Republican party elite, who really want this birther thing to go away.

As the 2012 presidential campaign approaches, a birther backlash is emerging among Republican elites. This backlash provides an example of a dynamic we’re likely to see more of during the campaign, as the interests of the Republican Party and Fox News being to diverge. While Fox News and the GOP normally have a symbiotic relationship, the interest Republican politicians have in not looking like cranks is in conflict with Fox News’s interest in promoting cranks to get ratings.

Read the whole thing for the details of the conflict. The problem is that birtherism is so racist, and the longer this whole conspiracy theory drags on, the more obvious it is that it’s a bunch of white conservatives casting around for newer, weirder ways to object to a black man being President. And it doesn’t play so well to some of the swing voters Republicans want to get. The odds go up every day that the issue will have to be something that would-be presidential candidates have to respond to. The odds of avoiding a situation where a debate moderator or a person at a town hall asks a candidate about Obama’s citizenship go down precipitously every news cycle. Plus, you have Arizona passing a completely silly birther law, which means there’s going to be court bullshit that draws more attention to this problem, further alienating swing voters.

I just want to highlight this paragraph at the end:

This is a problem of Republicans’ own creation, and it’s one that illustrates what is likely to be one of the more odder elements of the 2012 presidential race — the distinction between what helps the GOP win elections, and what helps Fox get ratings.

I just want to add that this is a problem of the Republicans’ own creation in more ways than their reliance on Fox News and cultivating cranks as their base, though that’s a large part of it. It’s also that Republicans have been making this bed for decades with their War on Reality. From Ronald Reagan making up war experiences he didn’t have and “welfare queens” to George Bush lying us into the war on Iraq to “death panels” to claiming global warming is a hoax to claiming that they’re not trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare—Republicans have made lying such a massive habit that it’s kind of silly of them not to expect their base to discard the notion that truth has any value whatsoever. After all, what makes a lie about WMDs in Iraq more acceptable than fantastical stories about Obama’s birth?

Really, the whole conflict on birtherism is about elitism. It’s about the elites telling their populist base, “Hey, we make up the bullshit and you repeat it! Don’t go freelancing bullshit on your own! You don’t know what you’re doing.” Which, in turn, is part of the reason that Donald Trump embracing this is making it more acceptable, since he’s blessing this bullshit with his elite credentials. Obviously, I’m not rooting for any sides in this fight. Birtherism is just racism in really strange clothes, and the elite Republicans are a bunch of blowhards who have it coming. What I will say is that I don’t mind it if this fight spirals out of control. I’m disinclined to think that birtherism actually raises racial tensions, since it’s so weird and insular. But I do think it outs a lot of people who might otherwise have escaped notice as the Republican base, and I’m all for that.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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