If one looks at the wording of the poll questions on the subject, they are framed in terms of doubt rather than disbelief. Even among the fieriest complainers on right-wing blogs (the ones I see, anyway) there is more emphasis on the fact that Obama can’t seem to be bothered to prove his constitutional eligibility.
Democratic pollster David Beattie conducted a survey last month in one competitive congressional district that found that more than a quarter of independents believed Obama had not proven his natural-born status. The same sentiment was expressed by nearly 6 in 10 Republican women -- a group that Beattie said would be important for a Democratic victory.
He declined to name the district because the polling was private, but said that such questions about Obama's background seemed to be a "proxy" for voters' growing unease with Obama's ambitious agenda, which has included a potential push to create a government-sponsored health insurance plan. (LA Times)
I agree with Beattie’s assessment that the issue is a proxy for a growing number of vaguer discontents about Obama. I doubt the general citizen who spends more of her day concerned with events in her own life than document trails of politicians is convinced that Obama was born elsewhere. Such dark fantasies seem more appropriate to movie plots than to the light of day. Folks think But it is the Constitution, after all, and seems pretty straightforward to rectify, and shouldn’t a president be more…more reassuring about such things?
The Obama defense that the whole idea is ridiculous and the president shouldn’t have to be bothered with addressing every cockamamie rumor about him is a reasonably good point. If the natural-born citizenship were the only question arising, I don’t think it would have legs. But this seems part of a pattern. The resignation of Van Jones stirs up both the old questions about Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright – that Obama has connections to some seriously left-wing people – and to the more recent questions about his actual appointees, revealed to be a remarkably concentrated sample of tax evaders, political threateners, and incompetents. We expect the president to be more reassuring about these issues as well. We don’t want to keep asking “who’s minding the store?”
Most people are willing to accept a decent explanation. Obama was somewhat reassuring that all his radical friends had gone mainstream, and those who hadn’t he was no longer influenced by. His more visible appointees have often had resumes that seemed at least superficially acceptable. Yet in none of these cases did he give a fully adequate response, only a mostly adequate one. Those inclined to doubt his words from the start pointed out weaknesses and discrepancies in his statements. For the rest, it’s easier to believe than to disbelieve, and folks go about their business, filing the incidents under “That’s probably OK.” Yet at some point a voice in one’s brain goes “Y’know, there are an awful lot of probablies in this basket.”
The high-profile events of the summer have only served to reinforce the doubts. Whatever people know about bailouts, stimulus, budget, and now health care, they know that it’s a heckuva lot of money. An unprecedented amount of money. More, much more, than foreign wars cost. People had plenty of doubts how much bang for our buck we were getting for those wars, but at least there were always things we could point to that might justify them. At least we did something against terrorists…at least Saddam’s gone and Iraq has elections…at least there’s been no more attacks…maybe it will all work out okay. But with these new huge sums the reassurance continues to drain. Are the automakers doing better? Weren’t they supposed to be doing better by now? Why hasn’t the stimulus stimulated? Was it supposed to take this long but I missed that part? The off-the-cuff trashing of the Cambridge PD, the stupid interactions with the Russians, the Brits, Hondurans, and the Saudis – all these add to the impression “Is this guy American in the deeper sense of someone who loves this country and wants to fix it? Or is he just trying to remake it?” Any doubts attaching to his origins would likely be a magnet.
I doubt 6 in 10 Republican women in any county in America think Obama was born in Kenya. If someone has numbers that contradict that, send ‘em on. My reading of the sentiment is that people believe he’s being cavalier with American attitudes and rules in general, and wondering if that extends even to our most basic American contract, the Constitution. Politicians are supposed to be bright and snappy about easy constitutional things. It’s a gimme putt. Folks wonder why he can’t be bothered.