Last night, I was reading Job’s Anger (as I do every night), and I came upon, Many of GOP Are Unconnected to Reality. It’s one of the great things that Ted does on the site: present and analyze polling data in a really accessible way. But these polling results were a little odd. Public Policy Polling asked Republicans if they thought that President Obama was born in the United States. But they also asked if Ted Cruz was born in the US. Before digging in, let’s remember that Obama was, in fact, born in the US — this is an undeniable fact. Also: Ted Cruz was born in Canada — this too is an undeniable fact. (All you have to do is ask him.)
Now regardless of this, Ted Cruz is still qualified to be president of the United States. His mother was a citizen of the US and thus, by legal precedent, Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen. But forget the courts. Think about it. Both sides of your family have been American citizens for generations. Your mother is pregnant with you but is visiting Tijuana when she goes into labor and gives birth to you in a taxi. Does it make any sense that you would not be considered a natural born US citizen? Of course not. And I know I’m right on this because I hate Ted Cruz and if I could find a rationalization to deny him the presidency, I would.
Of course, the whole thing takes me back to Obama’s early years when people were claiming that he was an invalid president because he wasn’t born here. But even if that had been the case, he still would have been a natural born citizen. It’s funny to see how the conservative media pushed this whole thing for years without ever mentioning that it didn’t matter. When people on the left started saying much the same thing about Cruz — who clearly was not born in the US, the liberal media just pointed out the truth that he was perfectly qualified to be president because he was still a “natural born citizen” even though he was born in Canada.
But the numbers are shocking. Republicans overall think Obama was not born in the US by a factor of 44% to 29%. Less than one-third of Republicans are sure that Obama was born in the United States. It gets even worse when you move out to the Tea Party types. They think Obama was not born in the US by a factor of 64% to 15%. That’s just crazy. When it comes to Ted Cruz — who again, was not born in the US — the numbers are reversed. For Republicans generally, they think Ted Cruz was born in the US by a factor of 40% to 22%. And for the Tea Party types, it is 55% to 22%.
Now Ted McLaughlin (of Job’s Anger) thinks, “A significant portion of the Republican base have no use for reason or logic.” That’s true. But I doubt that’s what’s going on here. Instead, I think Martin Longman nails it in his article, How the Stupid Party Was Made. He focused on another part of that same poll. Republicans also think that Obama is a Muslim: 54% think so, compared to just 14% who think that he is Christian — which is what he actually is. Longman compared this to a hypothetical poll question, “If you ask Republicans if Bobby Jindal is Hindu, Muslim or Christian (all real possibilities given his ethnicity), they’re going to do much better at identifying him as a Christian.”
So why is that? Obviously, it is because conservative media consumers have been fed a steady diet of “Obama the foreign born Muslim usurper.” But as Longman points out, if Democratic operatives and media types tried to do the same thing (“Chris Christie is a Christian Scientist!”), it wouldn’t work nearly as well. “So part of this is about differential gullibility in the bases of the two main political parties.” But that’s not all. Longman also thinks that this is a way for the Republican Party to solidify its base by creating a kind of identity of “whiteness.”
But I think it is even more fundamental than that. The primary political tactic of the Republican Party — going back decades — is to define the good people and the “other.” That’s certainly what the Welfare Queen was all about. The Democratic Party has lots of proplems, but it isn’t based on the idea that “those people” are getting over on you — unless you define “those people” as the billionaire class. But the “why” of the matter doesn’t ultimately mean all that much. As the traditional white identity becomes more of a minority, it will naturally go in this direction.
Still, these results are shocking. Obama is at the end of his term. In ten years, these very same Republicans will not admit that they ever believed he was a Muslim Kenyan Socialist bent on destroying America. It will be like Bill Clinton, where they can’t quite remember why they thought he was so bad. But I guess as long as any Democrat is still in the White House, they will think the worst. Clearly, that overt racism will go away with Obama’s presidency. But don’t be surprised if conservatives under a Hillary Clinton administration start claiming — and believing — that she has a secret plan to castrate all men or make it illegal for men to run companies. Because Ted is right, “Many of GOP Are Unconnected to Reality.” And that will always be the case.