Today, Bill Maher published an article entitled “Birth Control” on his blog, in which he backed Chris Mathews’ assertion that Mitt Romney played the race card with his birther joke. Matthews laid into RNC chairman Reince Priebus during MSNBC’s Morning Joe program.
Tom Brokaw chimed in that he disagreed with Chris, and thought it was just an “awkward joke,” adding that Republican leaders should have corrected the record when people started calling Obama a Muslim and a socialist, but “both sides” do it. Bullshit. Half of Democrats don’t believe Romney was born in a foreign country. On another planet, maybe, but not a foreign country. That was the whole point of Romney’s “joke,” wasn’t it? “Nobody’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” — yeah, because you’re a white guy, you dipshit, and you’re not the victim of that kind of racism. When people say he can’t empathize with ordinary people, that’s part of what they mean.
Maher asks the perfectly rational question: “How did it grow to the point where half of Republican primary voters believed it?” It occurs to me that no GOP official or conservative voter has ever properly answered this question. Birherism is the type of conspiracy theory babble that is typical of fringe-dwelling right wingers. Its momentum, however, was redirected by the GOP simply for electoral and political power.
“It wasn’t just the silence of Republican leaders, it was the failure of people like Tom Brokaw to just dismiss it as racism from the beginning,” writes Maher. “People like him are always championing ‘balance’ over objectivity. They have to bring everything back to a discussion about how ‘both sides’ are guilty, instead of doing his job as a referee.”
But Maher’s piece de resistance is this line: “If every single journalist just simply labeled birtherism what it obviously is — racism — the cancer wouldn’t have infected half the party. Maybe 25% or so, but most would be like, ‘Okay, this isn’t socially respectable.’”
Maher may be giving the GOP and its base too much credit here, though. The electoral and political attractiveness of Obama’s Kenyan ethnicity, coupled with his globe-trotting childhood, always had the potential to whip up racist, rightwing hysteria. And who knows, perhaps its genesis was never really in the fringe, but right at the dark, decaying heart of the Republican party.
That it would encourage birtherism is typical of a party that has spun completely off of its rational axis into the netherworld of conspiracy, fear and hatred. It is tactic of a party that is ideologically bankrupt and dead set on regression.