You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff.
—Lee Atwater, Reagan administration official & GOP political consultant, on the Southern Strategy
Is “birth certificate” the new “nigger”? Could be. There are politicians who dabble in outright birtherism, but it’s become something of an embarrassment.
Just as tobacco juice-drooling yahoos once shamed “mainstream” politicians into dealing in dog-whistles rather than serving their racism straight-up, the sheer wackiness of people like Orly Taitz and Tom Tancredo have prompted the mainstream GOP to adopt a more genteel method to “otherize” the president in particular and the Democratic party in general: ideological birtherism.
It’s nothing new. Sarah Palin has been beating the ideological birther drum incessantly for a couple of years now. But whereas Palin winks and simpers about “real America” and the “heartland” vs. “elites” to portray herself as the legitimate guardian of American values, Newt Gingrich framed his attack in unusually stark terms after yesterday’s premiere of his 9/11 death porn film, America at Risk:
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
Gingrich bases his portrayal of Obama as a Manchurian foreigner programmed by his Kenyan father to wreak Africa’s revenge for Western colonialism on an article in Forbes by Dinesh D’Souza. D’Souza’s argument was given its proper name—ideological birtherism—and utterly destroyed by Daniel Larison here.
But pointing out that ideological birtherism is wholly based on lies won’t deter its champions from using it as a political strategy. Why? Because that’s all they’ve got.
Aimai over at No More Mr. Nice Blog summarized it perfectly in comments here:
The upper management of the right wing have grasped that they can only stay in power, and loot the treasury and gut regulations, as long as the voters are utterly stupified by rage and depression. Any honest evaluation of our situation, any honest attempt to dig us out of Bush’s hole, would result in a permanent loss to the Republican party. All that’s left is lies, anger, and destruction. The right isn’t choosing “rule or ruin” because they like it (although they do) but because its the only choice left to them.
Bingo. The only remaining question is whether or not it will work.