Shocking Number of Americans Still Doubt President’s Birth

These so-called Birthers went underground for a while but are emerging with more organized efforts to influence politics and policy.

Brendan Smialowski

We’re also starting to see the Birthers pop up occasionally. Sen. Ted Cruz’s father—a Cuban-born expatriate who once fought for Castro revolutionaries—was recently spotted spouting the Birther gospel to an enthusiastic crowd of happy red-staters. Former Republican Rep. John LeBoutillier, with some prime-time assist from Fox News, is presently pushing a page-wasting novel masked in Birtherese. Occasionally, cable television will light up with grainy YouTube footage of some bigoted Republican lawmaker making Birther statements at quaint forums in remote rural towns. But why does it keep coming up after we’ve already litigated it in two presidential elections?

Because Birtherism will be just as problematic for congressional Democrats in 2014 as it will be for the first black president’s legacy. When you’ve got nearly 40 percent of the electorate under some impression that their president is an illegitimate Kenyan child, it bubbles up into voter resentment, enough of which could lead to Republicans retaking the Senate, while possibly expanding their grip on the House.  

Stakes are high in 2014. Although the president isn’t on the ballot this year, the question of his birthplace still is. The crazy conspiracy theory we thought was put to rest returns in fierce political play. 

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and frequent contributor to The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. You can reach him via Twitter.