Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are not stupid.
They understand Arizona voters, and they need to, because Bennett longs to be Arizona’s gov in 2014 and Arpaio wants to get re-elected in November. They both say politics had nothing to do with their recent revival of Birtherism, the repeatedly-debunked crackpot theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or Indonesia and thus his birth certificate is forged.
Bennett and Arpaio have their fingers on the pulse of Arizona’s voters — as I wrote in the Daily Beast last week, an incredible six out of 10 Arizona voters are what I call “Birther Friendly.
By this I mean they told Morrison and Merrill pollsters that they support a birther bill — a state law requiring presidential candidates to provide heir birth certificates before getting on the Arizona ballot.
This is all about Obama, and what it means to have a black man as president. [He must have tricked us, the thinking goes. Now let's get rid of him.]
Of course, the president’s birth certificate is widely available, is posted on the White House website, is posted on the state of Hawaii website, and has been judged authentic again and again by credible sources.
Which made me wonder if the Grand Canyon State Birtherfest would hurt commerce.
I asked The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry if the Birther Renaissance damaged businesses in the same way as the immigration laws the chamber had opposed.
“We’re certainly cognizant of the state’s perception nationally, but the difference between immigration policy and this particular episode is that this is a speed bump,” said Garrick Taylor, a spokesman for the chamber. He called the birther revival “small” compared to the progress of the legislature in making Arizona more attractive to businesses. That would include a 30 percent cut in corporate income tax rates and a 25 percent reduction in capital gains tax. So, in the scheme of things, he concluded, the birther news was a distraction.
The C of C has a mission — representing businesses. We all need business, and we respect them for doing their job, even if we don’t always agree with them.
So don’t criticize the chamber boys for being politically tactful. This legislature has been easy to work with – it’s pliable.
But it’s also teeming with birthers.
And it is scarily extremist. It wants militias on the border, wants to keep women from healthcare at Planned Parenthood because it wants PP broke. And it wants a birther bill. (Fortunately for all of us, Gov. Brewer vetoed the birther bill, rightly calling it unconstitutional).
Recently two highly-regarded writers, Timothy Egan of the New York Times and Todd Purham of Vanity Fair, assessed Arizona’s birther madness.
“The people who now control the state are proof of the old saying that in a democracy, voters get what they deserve,” Egan rightly concluded.
“Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the most recent go-round on this matter is that Arizona’s Attorney General Bennett went out of his way to insist that he himself was not a “ birther” but was simply trying to satisfy the concerns of his alarmed constituents. That’s either a painful reflection of the political fear the question generates or a remarkably disingenuous and self-serving statement. Whenever someone says, “It’s not about the money,” it’s about the money,” Purdham wrote in Vanity Fair.
One Daily Beast reader also touched me, when he voiced the frustrations many of us feel – regardless of our opinions about President Barack Obama — with the embarrasing pig-headed ignorance of it all.
“No matter what documents are produced,” the reader wrote, “no matter what photos, newspaper reports, long form birth certificates with the embossed seal, testimonials, whatever: they will NOT accept it. The birthers are like the Inquisition in Galileo’s time. Galileo claimed that moons revolved around Jupiter. The Church said that could NOT be true, the Church taught that everything in the universe revolved around the earth. Galileo said “Look through my telescope and see!” They refused. They were right and that was that. No evidence would convince them.”
By reviving birtherism, Arpaio and Bennett were trying to score votes because six out of 10 Arizona voters are, as I said, birther-friendly.
While the birther craze may not harm business, it tells us who we are as a state.
We need to get that.