What is Birtherism and Why is it Important to Trump?

photo by Colin Poellot

 

Getting to the bottom of Trump’s comments on President Obama’s birth certificate will lead you down many dark corridors, so let me spare you the trip.

  1. Birtherism is a movement that was started by political opponents of Barack Obama during his presidential run. The basic assertion and force of the movement was a claim that Obama was not born in the US, since there was no evidence of a “birth certificate.” Since Birtherists assumed that this was true, the movement called for Barack Obama to quit the presidential race (and later the presidency) as an illegitimate candidate.
  2. Donald Trump jumped on the bandwagon sometime in 2011. He insisted that President Obama should step down or produce a “real” birth certificate, claiming that the certificate of live birth Obama produced in 2011 was not sufficient. Trump was refuted.
  3. The whole thing smells of racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia. Why question Barack Obama’s citizenship? If his name had been Samuel L. Jackson, would anyone have questioned his citizenship? How about Michael J. Fox? I don’t think so. The entire issue is a maniacal fantasy.
    1. Who would conspire in 1961 to setup a non-citizen to be president one day?
    2. How could anyone falsify records from the 1960’s in the present to make a non-citizen look “legitimate enough to be president”?
    3. Why would anyone go to the trouble to hide President Obama’s lack of citizenship? Why nominate a non-citizen in the first place?

Here’s what you need to know about Birtherism: it’s a conspiracy theory.

So, why is a conspiracy theory so important to Trump?

There’s no good answer to that.

The racist tendencies of Birtherism may resonate with him, the islamophobic tendencies of Birtherism may jingle his bell, or he may just be using a conspiracy theory (and the fear it generates) for political maneuvering.

Maybe there’s another option or two that I’m missing.

It’s very unlikely, however, that the options are good – unless you’re Jerry Fletcher.

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