I heard a statistic the other day that 48% of Republicans either are not sure or deny that President Obama was born in the USA. This pretty much confirms my suspicion that half of the Republican Party consists of closet bigots who refuse to see anyone of color as a true American. This is not to say that they are among the lunatic fringe called “birthers”, whose real agenda is to foment a violent right wing coup. They are tacitly creating hysteria designed to encourage some nut with a gun to save America. Sarah Palin was flirting with the same dynamic when she accused Obama of “paling-around” with terrorists and allowing her audience to shout out “traitor” and “kill him”.
Most Republicans are vulnerable to the idea that Obama was not born in the USA because he is an African-American, and to them, anything but a white face is suspect. Republicans are already an almost exclusively white political party – one starkly divided economically and educationally. One wing of the Republican Party is the country club elitists – the white guys who own about 90% of all wealth in the U.S. They are college-educated and most of them inherited or married into their wealth. The other Republican Party is white middle-class or poorer, not well educated, and bitter about having to compete with “foreigners” who they blame for their lack of economic success. They want to be like the country club Republicans, but the closest they will ever come is to be culturally alike. Republicans cling to a sort of moral and racial certainty that makes them vulnerable to xenophobic or racist movements like the birthers.
Even more revealing than the wink and a nod that the Republican leadership gives to birthers, is their rejection of Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. While all Republican Senators thus far have said that she was qualified (the only Constitutional requirement), nearly all of them will vote against her because they just don’t like her. They may try to hide behind complaints about her “judicial activism”, but with a record of supporting judicial precedents far better than conservatives currently on the Supreme Court, they really have no rationale. The curious thing about the lack of Republican support for the Sotomayor nomination is that, not only is it the right thing to, do but it also makes political sense – if you don’t want to offend Hispanic-Americans. Republican Senators boxed themselves in early by portraying her as “anti-white male”. Clearly, the Republican Party encouragement of the “birthers” and their senseless objection to Judge Sotomayor means that the Republican Party is being reborn as the old Republican Party of “whites only”.