LEAVE us begin at the end: Birtherism isn't a national embarrassment. Waterboarding is a national embarrassment. Keeping innocent men in Guantánamo is a national embarrassment. Keeping guilty men in Guantánamo, without the benefit of trial, is a national embarrassment. Our two major political parties are a national embarrassment. The unseriousness of our mass-market media is a national embarrassment.
Birtherism, on the other hand, is a Republican embarrassment. And Republican embarrassment is fast becoming a redundancy.
As to "why it's not over yet" well, simple: because Birtherism is not some Snopesworthy email which caused a majority* of Republicans to accidentally believe the President is not an American. It's the fucking delusional soul of a party, and a "movement", based on being delusional. The Weigels of the world, and his occupation writ large, for the most part, may consider anything older than five years to be ancient history. The clearer view is that modern Right Wing Republicanism, a phenomenon which can be shortened to "Republicanism", certainly after 1964 at the latest, is a veritable museum of Fucking Crazy Shit People Insisted On, from Commies under every bed, fluoridating our drinking water, biasing our screenplays, and weakening our moral fiber so we'd be ripe for that Soviet invasion coming any day, to the Cult of Flag and Cross, which inserted "Under God" into a 19th Century Boy's Life homily before insisting that every public school student mouth the words uncomprehendingly each dawn, to the contention (from such marginal Republican outsiders as William Fuhbuckley) that the Negro, however well- intentioned and -mannered, could not be trusted to vote in any jurisdiction where the average annual temperature accentuated his natural indolence, to the various Stab in the Back/ We Weren't Allowed to Win/ We Really Did Win theories of Vietnam, to the entire Ronald Reagan mythos, or at least those parts touching on Economics, Defense, Culture, and the Mathematically Verifiable, "The Judeo-Christian Tradition", the confusion of modern-day Israelis with mythic Israelites, and the sacred tradition of Cecil B. DeMille's prop ten commandments on every courthouse lawn, to the Presidency of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Cambrian explosion of crazy--the point at which Right Wing America formerly merely gulled by PR and irritated by facts became, like the Simpsons, a family that didn't know any songs that weren't commercial jingles--about which we will just say "The Vince Foster hit" and let the reader to add his own fond memories. That brings us to the Presidency of the Prodigal Bush, and certainly to within shouting distance of when Weigel wants the clock to start moving.
Birtherism is not an aberration. Birtherism is the Republican party. It's too bad if it makes the Davids (Frum, Brooks, Weigel) uncomfortable. They should be uncomfortable. They should be especially uncomfortable with the number of times they've coverted for this sort of shit in exchange for lower marginal tax rates.
Here, by the way, is how much this sort of thing affects Weigel's perception of his own party:
Proto-birtherism: April 2008 to June 11, 2008
In March and April 2008, [Hillary] Clinton regained ground and looked to have some chance of beating Obama for the Democratic nomination. This was the time when some Clinton supporters started glomming on to any rumor that looked dangerous. A chain letter from American missionaries in Kenya did the trick: It claimed that Obama's real middle name was "Mohammed."
Birtherism, the Democratic tactic: March 2009 to January 2011
In March 2009, with very little fanfare, Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., introduced one of his first pieces of legislation.
"To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee's statement of organization a copy of the candidate's birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution."
For the first time, an elected office-holder had indulged the birther theory. Before this point, there was no reason to ask a Republican if he bought into that stuff. Now there was. A dozen Republicans co-sponsored the Posey bill. Fringe-curious reporters (and here I'll raise my hand) and liberal blogs covered it all with amazement. A liberal videographer named Mike Stark tailed Republican members of Congress to get their takes on the story.
At the time, Democrats saw an advantage in making Republicans look crazy.
Now, for the record, "Proto-birtherism" follows "Paleobirtherism", a period evidentally renowned for its being named for a phenomenon which did not then exist, making the ever-convenient PUMAs, all six or eight of 'em, counting Republican plants, the spark that lit the fuse that ignited the unsuspected barely-contained cloud of racist sewer gas under the houses of 51% of Republican voters. And then Democrats suddenly saw an advantage in making Republicans look crazy. Something which hadn't occurred to them in the previous forty-five years. And all because a mere dozen or so duly elected Republican representatives were insane enough to sponsor a harmless little bill.
So, then, Whatever are we to do about these Democrats? (And while we're at it, does anyone know the identity of any "liberal bloggers" who were "amazed" in 2009 by anything whatsoever a Republican, in or out of Congress, would do?)
Spirited attempt, really; the problem is it's about fifty years and a hundred-fifty cases of marrow-deep insanity too late. The "serious" policy positions of the Republican party belong on Snope's Crazy Email Chain page right alongside Birtherism, Palinism, and Larry Craig's wide-stance explanation. If you wanna claim it's all just a sideshow, kindly point us to where the real, sane, rational show has been going on.
* statistic courtesy Dave Weigel.