Donald Trump continues to pump up the question of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, even on the eve of the Republican National Convention. In fact, the big “surprise” he has in store for the convention may have something to do with that (publication of the President’s “actual” birth certificate, perhaps?)
There are two sides to the question of Barack Obama’s birth: one small group that seemingly refuses to accept the reality that he was born in the United States, and one very large group—including plenty of Republicans—who can’t understand how there is a small group still denying that reality.
This is all about reality, and the way that politics deals with it.
The underlying truth about the curious stubbornness of “birther” partisans is not that they deny the President was born in Hawaii. It’s that they deny and refuse to accept that he is the President, wherever he was actually born. They will never be satisfied by any proof that Barack Obama wasn’t born outside the United States, because as a necessary political matter, he really was born outside.
We faced a similar issue nine years ago. In the prelude to the Iraq War, two possible realities fought it out, and there were large numbers of both believers and skeptics about the reality of WMDs, which was the casus belli. Some circumstantial evidence was offered for their existence, which didn’t quite satisfy a number of reasonable people. But as a political matter, WMDs had to exist, and since there was no way of definitively answering the question short of invasion, invade we did. All these years later, there is broad consensus that there were no WMDs. But that hasn’t stopped a small but durable band of believers from still insisting that they were there, because as a political matter they have to have been. For them, there will never be enough proof to the contrary.
It may not seem like it in the midst of this election season, but politics actually has some good uses. Denying reality is not one of them. Politics is supposed to serve reality, not the other way around.