Sunday, September 18, 2016
Last Friday Donald Trump teased the press about a major statement he was going to make on the birthplace of President Barack Obama. First, after forcing the TV press to sit through what was essentially an infomercial for his new hotel, he gave a terse statement:" President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period, now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.” Unable to resist, he, in typical fashion, managed to work both a lie and a boast into his next statement: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” Mr. Trump said. “I finished it.”
Now, it is normal for Presidential candidates to run further to the right or the left during the primaries and then return to the center during the national race, when appealing to swing voters and moderates. But, it's a sad state of affairs when a major party's candidate return to the center means abandoning a crazy, discredited conspiracy theory! And like he does so often, Trump wants the American public to listen to and believe whatever is saying at any given moment and ignore everything he has said before (which works far better for him than it should). Trump's assertion that Clinton herself began the birther theory back in 2008 has been fact checked and debunked thoroughly; while there may have been a few low level staffers who batted the idea around while she was running against Obama in the primaries, Clinton herself never pushed the theory. But not only did Clinton not start the birther movement, she certainly never loudly and wholeheartedly embraced it the way that Trump did. Remember that in 2011 Trump considered running for the presidency against Obama by giving one interview after another saying that Obama's birthplace was in question. He made vague, ludicrous statements about how he had sent investigators to Hawaii who were finding out "incredible things" about Obama, and kept it up even after the President released his long form birth certificate that year. As late as 2014 he tweeted "Attention all hackers: You are hacking everything else so please hack Obama's college records (destroyed?) and check "place of birth". " The notion that he had put this issue to rest after keeping it alive for far too long is the height of hubris. And, unfortunately, his statement on the issue allowed for no questions from the press and offered no apology to President Obama or the American people for wasting so much time on such a preposterous conspiracy.
To me the real tragedy of this whole mess is not Trump's hanging on to birtherism for as long as he has, it's how many American citizens clung to it, and still do. In the eight years that Obama has been President, the percentage of Republicans who don't think he was born in the country or aren't sure has never hovered below forty percent. Why do literally tens of millions of Americans cling to this notion despite a complete lack of evidence? The sad truth is that an awful lot of white Americans have never been comfortable with an African American President and hold on to the birther movement as a safe place to express this discomfort without just coming out and admitting it. And Trump has been capitalizing on that discomfort right from the start, and will continue to find ways to do so, even as he abandons birtherism.
It is truly horrific to consider that Trump may ride birtherism to the White House, and while the edge may be still in Clinton's favor, this race is far too close. Even more horrid is the fact that if only white people voted, Trump would be well in the lead, and if only white men voted, he'd win in a land slide. So here's a thought, since white men have held back voting rights to other Americans for so long, why don't we forfeit ours for the next, say, 100 years? Personally, I would gladly give up my right to vote if every other white man in the country had to also. I'm just saying....