A REPUBLICAN THREE-POINT PLAY
by Sally Vendée
(Mar. 30, 2010) — Political experts have recommended that the Republicans recruit and join the Tea Partiers, or they will surely lose in upcoming elections if the Partiers continue to increase in number, appoint leaders, or form a third party. Additionally, some experts say the Tea Party should distance itself from the “birthers” in its ranks.
The Dems, though, in a war of words, group and then proceed to marginalize them all together anyway—Bob Beckel recently described Republicans as “birthers, baggers, and blowhards.” When these labels are thrown about, Republicans and Conservative talkers retreat quickly into the sidelines with nervous smiles, ready to jump on the name-calling bandwagon or distance themselves from these “fringe” relatives, even while tripping over their own feet on the way. “Rahm Emanuel smiles,” according to BigJournalism, every time someone “raises a question about the President’s birth certificate.”
Many journalists and pundits, conservative and liberal alike, mock the “birfers” and the “baggers,” without facts beyond the usual mainstream assertions, based on each other’s opinions, and with claims that if the eligibility issue had any traction, they themselves would have indeed given it.
If these journalists actually did a little research—attending a Tea Party or two, interviewing, and yes, even digging into the “birther” claims—one key fact would become apparent: The Partiers, whether or not also “birthers,” are, in a unique way, striving to be “Constitutionalists.” Most Partiers assert they don’t need a platform because a perfect one has already been written: The Constitution. They further argue that we wouldn’t find ourselves in today’s messes if people, especially those in Congress and the Courts, would only have been paying more attention to it.
Described as a move to “pin down their opponents,” the Dems’ Senatorial Campaign strategy actually includes the “birther” question. Many so-called “birthers” will cringe at its wording (“Do you believe that Barack Obama is a US Citizen?”), and even those who wouldn’t consider themselves “birthers,” may hear “gotcha!” if a split second of hesitation is detected before a “yes” answer. Conservatives and Republicans alike, fearful of the dreaded label, either dodge the charge or flee across the court to side with the accuser.
The problem is neither of these defensive maneuvers will serve a winning Republican game plan.
RedState recently recommended this play: “A conservative movement worthy of leading this nation must be willing to cast aside those who, for whatever reason, cannot and will not be persuaded that the President is our legitimately, constitutionally elected President.”
Even to “cast aside,” for the moment, the idea of whether or not this persuasion is necessary, recent polling leads one to wonder why either party would use a playbook that could alienate a large percentage of voters. Last August, a survey found that 55% of Arkansas voters had doubts, and others have had similar findings. Californians were recently asked: “Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States?” This poll found a full one-third either didn’t think so or weren’t sure.
Perhaps one explanation for this result is that California, with its high population of illegal immigrants, is home to many organizations like CAPS and CCIR which distribute information refuting the concept of birthright citizenship.
Birthright citizenship is the granting of US citizenship at birth to children of foreign parents who are here temporarily or even illegally. The US is one of few countries in the world to follow this practice, which many experts attest is not prescribed by the Constitution, but rather has become common procedure in the past 50 years or so, in part due to the large increase in immigration combined with lax enforcement of our laws.
So, a person polled on the “birther” question—who perhaps understands both the citizenship quandary and the fact that Obama’s father was never a US citizen, in Hawaii on a temporary student visa—may hesitate, or even answer “No.” Not because they are racist, or kooky, but rather well-informed. The respondent may have logically connected the dots and concluded that the founders most likely did not envision automatic citizenship to the child of a foreigner who never naturalized, much less would the founders consider this child “natural born” and more eligible for future Presidency than a “citizen” eligible only for Congress, just by virtue of being born here. These opinions are debatable, but certainly not the stuff of conspiracy or ignorance.
The challenge for Republicans is to turn this “birther” offense of the Dems, which seeks to divide and conquer, into a winning maneuver of their own that also reveals the Dem’s true colors. Lately the Constitution is on everyone’s mind as Healthcare Reform, considered unconstitutional in many respects, was rammed through Congress in an unusual and seemingly unconstitutional way—making the Dem’s team colors appear to be rather anti-Constitution, at least as viewed by many Americans.
Here’s some advice–if a reporter or a Democratic opponent asks the infamous “birther question”: Intercept. Take the ball and run.
Imagine the reaction if the answer is: Well, that’s an interesting question. Obama has told us that his father was not a US citizen, and that he himself was born a British subject. Many experts feel that our current practice of birthright and dual citizenship is not Constitutional, and a Congressional Hearing was held in 2005 in which all in attendance agreed. This makes the question of whether Obama meets the higher “natural born” Article 2 citizenship required for the Presidency rather complicated. There are some real Constitutional issues here, not conspiracy theory. I don’t know the answer, but I respect those who have taken the time to research this.
If they advance with: “You don’t think Obama is a US citizen?”—Say: No, I didn’t say that, but I can understand why some feel his “natural born” status is a logical and valid question.
That answer should cause some hesitation. If they continue to press with something like: “Do you believe he was born in Hawaii?”—Answer: Under the Constitutional definition, it may not matter, just as it didn’t seem to for McCain, who was born in Panama.
If they try to push with the birth certificate bait, answer something like: The President feels that posting a short form on the internet with Factcheck is sufficient, but many citizens feel he has not been transparent enough. This perceived lack of transparency, considering he campaigned so strongly on that platform, while some in his administration mock those who want more, is an understandable frustration. Obama thinks the questions are uncivil, while many feel it’s uncivil not to offer more answers.
By then, the steal is complete. Points are scored.
These responses haven’t earned any labels with an “–er” or an “–ism” on the end. Rather, letters have been earned: “–ist”—by playing on the team with Conservatives and the Tea Party, as a Constitutionalist.
The new game strategy: Intercept and reframe the questions. Control the conversation. Recruit the Tea Partiers to the join the team. Stop fouling anyone by calling them a “bagger” or “birther.” Change the label, by calling these people “Constitutionalists.”
Otherwise, Republicans may find many Tea Partiers calling them CINOs—“Constitutionalists in Name Only.” And they’ll be scouting to vote for the real ones.