Republicans Now Turning the Birther Movement on Themselves
Just as Barack Obama slams shut the lid of Pandora’s Birther box, Bobby Jindal pries it open again.
The Birther movement is back—this time with its ire trained on a whole new brown-skinned American politician, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. This time, however, Jindal has turned the Birtherism witch-hunt on himself.
Last month, in the midst of Donald Trump’s desperate attempt to undermine Obama with his three-ring Birther circus and the country becoming increasingly polarized over the issue, Jindal came down solidly on the side of Birtherism. He endorsed a Louisiana measure that would require candidates for federal office on a Louisiana ballot to show their birth certificates proving U.S. birth.
Louisiana’s local paper The Advocate ran an angry editorial suggesting Jindal was being a hypocrite. Jindal traveled to America from India in his mother’s stomach, and she gave birth to him in Louisiana shortly thereafter. After having made himself available as a Vice Presidential candidate in 2012, he himself is a likely target of Birther suspicion.
So how did Jindal respond? According to Reuters, He doubled down on his Birther convictions and released his own birth certificate to the press on Saturday as a defensive measure, meant to prove that he can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
Jindal may be forgetting, however, that Barack Obama also released his birth certificate in 2008 when Birther suspicion first arose. It did nothing to convince the xenophobes that he was actually born in America. Three years later and another birth certificate released, there are still those who doubt Obama’s Americanness. This, of course, is because Birtherism is not rational—it is emotional. It’s an instinctive suspicion about who “belongs” here.
“Bobby” Jindal’s real name first name is not Bobby—it is Piyush. Like Jindal, Barack Obama took a pseudonym earlier in his life, going by Barry, one assumes to feel less like an outsider and more like he belonged in the mainstream American zeitgeist. Unlike Jindal, however, Obama decided to start using his real name as an adult interested in American law and politics, one assumes, because America is supposed to be a melting pot.
Jindal should realize that Birtherism is not about procedural propriety—it is an emotional response by those who don’t feel people named things like Piyush Jindal can be truly American. For this reason, Jindal should fully expect the wrath of Birtherism to plague him long after releasing his birth certificate on Saturday, just as it did for Obama. Likely his releasing the birth certificate will prove The Advocate’s point—if he does end up as a Vice Presidential candidate, Jindal will be dragged through the mud over his native-born status and the certificate called a sham. Some circumstantial evidence will be enough for the conspiracy-minded to insist he’s an outsider.
It was sad to see Obama on the butt end of the Birther movement—but at least he stood and fought it. Seeing Jindal turn this hatred on himself is downright tragic. But at least one can expect Bill O’Reilly and his Fox News cohorts to support Jindal and be anti-Birther from the start this time. And that, if nothing else, is progress.
[Image via TreeHugger]