Birthers: The Politics Of Suspicion

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 04, 2011
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President Barack Obama speaks at a recent Democratic Party fundraiser April 27. AP photo

The words are flying all over the place, but not about our budget shortfall or beleaguered public education system.

It appears everyone has a take on President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Donald Trump has been the most prominent supporter of the “Birther” movement.

What’s going on?

It’s simple politics and one of the arts of creating a mass movement.

Former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can probably take credit for casting the first stone a few years back while exploring the political waters and her possible entry in the political race for the presidency. She asked the provocative question, “Was Obama really born to an American mother and Kenyan father in Hawaii, which makes him eligible to hold the office of president?”

Trump, a potential GOP presidential candidate, is taking the credit for forcing Obama to release the certificate of live birth and said, “Obama should have done so a long time ago.” He went on the say he’d want to make sure the birth certificate was real.


One would think that the frenzy over the birth certificate would end when President Barack Obama went public and released his long-form birth certificate, adding that the country doesn’t have time for the distraction and silliness of questions being persistently raised about where he was born.

The president, not mentioning Donald Trump by name, said, “The distractions were being staged by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

Trump quickly shifted his attack to the president’s academic qualifications, in particular, his acceptance to Columbia and Harvard universities, stating he was not a good student, so “How did he get in?”

There’s a lesson here for would-be politicians. What Obama is being subjected to is the unifying power of suspicion. Thus, when the Birthers congregate the frustration is heavy-laden with suspicion. There is much prying, spying and tense watching. Surprisingly, this pathological mistrust within the ranks of the movement does not lead to dissension, but to strict conformity. The faithful Birthers strive to escape suspicion by adhering zealously to the prescribed behavior and opinion of the movement.

Suspicion, for a very long time, has been the machinery of political domination.


What Donald Trump is trying to do is create a strong political party based deliberately on suspicion. In this scenario, the ranks of the movement associate the opposition as the enemy threatening their movement from without. Alas, it only makes them stronger.

What does this all mean?

It means you are going to hear a lot more from the Birther movement and Mr. Trump.

And while you may not like it one bit, realize they will do just about anything to keep suspicion alive.

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