Obama's birth certificate: The issue will last as long as his presidency.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
April 27 2011 7:31 PM

Birtherism Is Dead. Long Live Birtherism.

The history of a national embarrassment, and why it's not over yet.

(Continued from Page 2)

"Yes," said Kinsolving.

"It's on the Internet, Lester."

Throughout 2009, Kinsolving could be counted on as a sort of escape hatch—call on him, and he'd ask another oddball question. In the summer, Taitz, with her neon hairdo, incomprehensible accent, and ability to convince members of the military to sign up with her, became a sort of celebrity. She even appeared on the Colbert Report to talk up her cases. Absolutely zero new information was introduced—discredited reports about Obama just kept on circulating. But Democrats saw it all as a way to discredit the right. In January 2010, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee encouraged the party's candidates to get their Republican opponents on the record on some fringe issues. Among them: "Do you believe that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen?"


"We have a finite window when [Republican] candidates will feel susceptible to the extremists in their party," wrote DSCC chairman Bob Menendez.

There was plenty of video of Republican candidates going birther-curious all through 2010. Occasionally, stumbling over the birther question would cost a Republican a newspaper endorsement. It was always good for a segment on cable news. But 2010 was a bad year for Democrats. Very few of the Republicans nailed by this actually lost.

Birtherism, the Republican tactic: January 2011 to April 27, 2011

Republicans won big in 2010, and they won especially large landslides in some red and blue states. * In 2010, "birther bills" were distractions, doomed from the outset. In 2011, there were legislatures with big Republican majorities ready to pass them. Birtherism stopped being a joke. All of a sudden, the Republicans who believed in it were on cable TV, talking about the need to find out where Obama was born.

But there were also Republicans who wanted this to go away, and they won out. Arizona passed a birther bill and sent it to Gov. Jan Brewer's desk. She vetoed it and said the obsession over the issue was leading America down a "path of destruction." At the same time, Donald Trump had hitched his presidential campaign to the birther "issue." It was not hurting him; he had gone from nowhere to the front of the tentative Republican field.

This was the first Era of Birtherism in which Obama's staff had to field regular questions about an issue they knew was baseless. And this was why it came to an end today. The next era of Obama conspiracies starts with the president in a much more exposed position. Now, conspiracy theorists know that all kinds of people will listen to them if they toss an idea out there—even if the idea is proved to be baseless. Now, Democrats are on the lookout for the next big fantasy, and Republicans think they've found an Obama weakness. Why, after all, would he climb down to the gutter and duel with Donald Trump if the issue wasn't hurting him? What else is bubbling up on the Internet? What else can get under his skin?

Correction, April 28, 2011: This article originally referred to Republicans winning big in 2011. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

VIDEO: Trump Claims Credit for Obama Birth Certificate Release


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.