The “Birther” Controversy?

According to the September issue of The Atlantic, one in four Americans believe that President Obama is not a “natural born citizen” of the United States, while half of all Republicans believe this.  Given the latest political identification as indicated by the Rasmussen Report of June 2012, and the number of registered voters in the United States, that means that even twenty percent of Democrats and independents hold to this belief, still a considerable number.

The U.S. Constitution only specifies that, to be President, a person must be a “natural born citizen” of the United States, but does not define that term.  Over the time since the Constitution was adopted, the courts have defined “natural-born citizen as a person who was born “in” the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; or was born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents, either in the United States or elsewhere; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship at birth.

At least three court suits have been filed on the question of Obama’s citizenship, all in different states, and the determinations in all cases have affirmed that he is a “natural-born” citizen.  He was, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, born in a U.S. state of an American citizen.

So why do so many people, Republicans, in particular, believe he isn’t a “natural-born” citizen?

Yes, his mother divorced his father and then married an Indonesian and moved to Indonesia for a time, but the courts have previously ruled in other cases that similar acts, including the case of a woman born in the United States [with only her mother as a U.S. citizen, as was the case with Obama] who lived in a foreign country from the age of three until she was twenty-one was still a natural born citizen.

And why do so many Americans believe that he is a Muslim, when the man has attended Christian churches for so many years?

Or are these convenient beliefs merely a cover for the fact that Obama is black, and many voters, obviously including a significant proportion of Republicans, simply don’t want to admit publicly that they don’t like and don’t want a black President?  Instead, they claim that his mother was too young when she married his father [using convoluted legal rhetoric to claim that because she was so young, the rules for a child being a citizen when only one parent is a citizen don’t apply, that is, if Obama didn’t happen to have been born in a U.S. state, ignoring the fact that he was] or that his birth certificate was forged, or that he was really born in Kenya.

It’s one thing to oppose a politician for what he stands for; it’s another to invent reasons to oppose him to avoid facing personal prejudices… and it’s a shame so many Americans have to go to such lengths to avoid admitting those prejudices.  And it certainly doesn’t speak well of the United States that so many Americans accept such arguments as having any validity at all.


8 thoughts on “The “Birther” Controversy?”

  1. Nordom says:

    Thank you, Mr. Modesitt, for voicing something I knew but did not know the words to say. Regardless of whether he was born in Kenya, regardless of whether his certificate was forged, regardless of ANY of that…all of it has naught to do with the man himself. I still don’t particularly care for him, but spreading what are very likely lies as a way to “defeat” his positions is ridiculous.

  2. Jim S says:

    I have no doubt that President Obama meets the qualifications in the Constitution for the Office of President. Whether those who continue to hold to the birther nonsense are somehow covering their own racially biases, or seizing on a straw because it’s easier and more polarizing than actually addressing issues, I can’t say, and think is somewhat immaterial. It’s symptomatic of the polarization and general blockheadedness of politics today. I live in a so-called swing state, so I’m being bombarded by political ads. I can tell who the ad is supporting because it’ll feature the other guy. I’d almost consider voting for someone diametrically opposed to my beliefs if they simply told me why I should vote for them rather than why I shouldn’t vote for their opponent.

  3. Therman says:

    I’m glad someone else understands that you don’t have to be born in the US in order to be a ‘natural born’ citizen. That said, not sure I agree with the premise that the vast majority of ‘birthers’ have that position because of ratial bias. That there are some is certain but I would estimate that most are such because of ignorance of the law, not ratial intolerance.

    1. If you’re correct about ignorance of the law, then why are more Republicans ignorant of the law?

      1. Therman Campbell says:

        Probably because it plays to their bias and what they want to hear. The fact that Republicans are biased against Obama is primarily about the fact that he is a Democrat. If this question had existed with Clinton, I don’t think there would be a significant difference in the number of birthers. Think back to the impeachment procedings.

  4. Steve says:

    The birther issue is a ridiculous argument meant to inflame where discussions about the scope of government and economic issues often boor. The underlying motivations are many and could include race.

    Since you bring it up, isn’t the fact that 96% of African Americans voted for President Obama evidence of race based decision making? Fewer than 90% of African Americans identify as Democrat.

    We vote for people who we feel will represent us. Hopefully we can look beyond the superficial and vote for the character and political and economic philosophies.

  5. Sorwen says:

    While one can’t deny the possibility of it being race it is even more likely for the majority it is simply the same political maneuvering that has existed for decades/centuries. They’ve just had the most fodder for Obama than just about any other candidate in the past. I don’t really see that Black or White matters in that regard.

    I don’t doubt that for some it has to do with race because we still haven’t gotten over that particular hang up(both ways) and some just don’t want a black person in office(Democrats or Republicans). However I think it is fairly safe to say that the over all of Republicans just hate that a Democrat is in office. It is bordering on discrimination to attribute that as the main or sole reason for it. Your basing the argument on the color(or lack thereof) of their skin(or in the least at their political affiliation).

  6. Joe says:

    Being American is a question of culture and values. Being born here does not confer some magic pixie dust on people. If it did, why were the first presidents not Native Americans?

    Whoever is best at running the country should be president. Practically, intuitively understanding the culture — what works and what doesn’t — helps run a country. And there’s no better way of learning a culture than being brought up in it. But whether someone was born on US soil or not does not impact his/her ability to run the country.

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