Some argue Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii. Others, such as the one outlined in Iowa, focus on the fact that Obama's father was not a U.S. citizen, supposedly rendering his son ineligible for the Oval Office.
The Romney campaign would clearly prefer to focus on the economy and banish birth certificate talk to the “fever swamps” of the Internet, as Buzzfeed's Ben Smith recently labeled the sinister corners of the Web where conspiracy theories thrive.
In North Carolina, the state GOP convention will be headlined next week by Donald Trump, whose 2011 crusade to unearth details about Obama's origins drew global attention and prompted the White House to release the president's long-form birth certificate.
Between January 2011 and October 2012, governors signed into law twenty-three bills that imposed constraints on voting. Many of these measures mandated the presentation of a state-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license. In June 2012, the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania legislature took up the issue of voter identification cards, a topic of great interest to Republican-controlled legislatures in other states as well. The purported impetus for voter IDs was the prevalence of fraud—of voters presenting themselves at more than one polling station or of assuming someone else’s identity.
Typically, the poll worker at the voting location asks the voter his or her address and then the voter signs a document verifying his or her identity. Although the evidence for fraud in this system is only anecdotal – a study by the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice calculated the incidence of individual voter fraud to be literally equivalent to the incidence of individual Americans getting struck by lightning—several states raced to address the “problem” before the 2012 presidential election.
The real motivation, however, was to suppress the minority (mainly African American and Hispanic) turnout. Some poor residents do not own a car and, therefore, have no driver’s license, and the process for obtaining a picture ID could be intimidating, inconvenient and/or expensive. The U.S. has no national identification card with a photo. Someone who does not have such a document would need to go to a government office and purchase a photo I.D., thus making it difficult for those (particularly poor) residents to arrange such a visit as well as the cost on a fixed budget. It is estimated that about 25 percent of black voters and 16 percent of Latino voters do not have a government-issued photo ID. The figure among the rest of the population is around 11 percent. Approximately 30 percent of students lack the most common government-issued ID, a driver’s license. And young people, especially those between the ages of 18 and 29 tend to vote Democratic by substantial majorities.
Voter ID laws, if allowed to stand, would have clearly suppressed the minority vote. And that was the point. Mike Turzai, the Republican majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives divulged the real reason for the legislation: “Voter ID is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Since almost all black and Hispanic voters would cast their ballots for President Obama, the statement revealed the motivation behind the move to fix alleged voter fraud.
Republicans also initiated other procedures designed to suppress minority voting. In nine states that passed voter ID laws, the government office to obtain them often kept irregular hours. For example, the Woodville, Mississippi, office opened only on the second Thursday of every month. That was more accommodating than Wisconsin’s Sauk City office, which was open only on the fifth Wednesday of every month. Eight months of the year do not have a fifth Wednesday, meaning the office was open only four days for the entire year.
Republicans also favored shorter polling hours, arguing that keeping the polls open too long was too expensive. This made it difficult for voters who worked early in the morning or until the late evening hours to vote. Republicans also mobilized against early voting, especially on Sundays. In 2008, in Hamilton County, Ohio (which includes Cincinnati) 42 percent of early voters were black. As for Sunday voting, conservative commentator Glenn Beck called it “an affront to God.” The real reason behind the Sunday ban movement was that black churches provided transportation to the polls following Sunday services. Ohio and Florida eliminated Sunday voting for the 2012 presidential election. Both were swing states.
Doug Preisse, a Republican official from Columbus, Ohio, explained, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban (read African American) voter-turnout machine.” When courts struck down Ohio’s assault on early voting, billboards appeared in black neighborhoods in Cleveland with a picture of a judge’s gavel and the words: “VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY: UP TO 3½ YEARS & $10,000 FINE.” The billboards’ owner is part of the Bain Capital Group, which Mitt Romney headed in the 1990s.
Barack Obama may, or may not, deserve reelection. But no man with as much decency as Obama exhibits in both his private and public life deserves the contempt that has been dumped on him by arch-conservative ideologues, talk show ranters and Internet goons.
From Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Donald Trump to all the anonymous creators of the wild fabrications that churn out of websites and go viral in emails, the relentless vilification of Obama has been unprecedented. Sure, every president suffers unfair criticism. Many of our most effective presidents, from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, have been slandered and hounded by critics. But Obama’s detractors have plumbed new and revolting depths of mendacity.
It is a false equivalence to say the left has been guilty of similar smears during the administrations of Republican presidents. In those past instances, all but a few Democratic elected officials shunned such slanders. The same was true for all but the most rabid liberal commentators. But most of today’s Republican leaders stay silent in the face of the lies and many eagerly repeat them, while leading conservative pundits give the endless falsehoods credence, not an honest critique.
Debusmann, Bernd, “The Lucrative Business of Obama-Bashing.” Reuters, October 22, 2009. Web. http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2009/10/22/the-lucrative-business-of-obama-bashing/
“Romney's 'Birther' Jibe Upsets Obama Campaign.” BBC News, August 24, 2012. Web. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-19372536
Wilson, John K., “Rush Limbaugh’s False Smears about Obama’s Harvard Record.” Academe Blog, August 2, 2012. Web. https://academeblog.org/2012/08/02/rush-limbaughs-false-smears-about-obamas-harvard-record/