Is it a long-term problem for Republicans that they are largely diametrically opposed to the first black president and first brown Supreme Court justice? You bet.
What struck me while watching yesterday's White House reception for President Barack Obama's first apppointee to the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, is how far out of sync with the future of America that the Republican Party is positioning itself. Lily white is hardly the color of America's future, but that is how the Republican Party has chosen to play it (notwithstanding the hapless Michael Steele at the Republican National Committee).
First, the party brushed aside the post-partisan offerings of Obama, keeping to the same hyper-partisan hostilities of the 2008 election. Then it turned on Sotomayor, who was actually appointed a federal judge by none other than the first President Bush, branding her a "racist," pounding away for months on the theme that she's a dangerous radical.
Mainstream Republicanism is essentially dominated by its Talk Radio Wing, a melange of radio reactionaries, cable chatterers, and blogospheric blowhards providing an echo chamber for the Republican base. Even John McCain, who actually defeated the Talk Radio Wing of the party in winning the Republican presidential nomination last year, adopted much of its demonizing approach in the general election against Obama.
Nine Republican senators voted to confirm Sotomayor, out of 40. But that total included four of the six retiring senators, who no longer have to worry about kow-towing to the Talk Radio Wing.
Of the 34 continuing Republican senators, only five voted to confirm the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Only one Republican senator from a state with a large Hispanic population, Florida's Mel Martinez, voted to confirm Sotomayor. And he's resigning from the Senate.
So we see that two-thirds of the Republican senators who no longer have to kow-tow to the Talk Radio Wing voted to confirm her. But only one-seventh of those who do have to live in Limbaugh Land approved the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
As striking, and politically stupid for the Republican Party in the long run, as that is, the refusal of mainstream Republicans to denounce the "birther" nonsense is even more so.
Why do Republicans nurture the birther nonsense about Obama? Because most of their voters, dependent on the Talk Radio Wing for their "news," may believe it.
The "Manchurian Candidate" fantasy, which I wrote about at length last year, is alive and well in Republican ranks.
A Research 2000 poll last month for the Daily Kos showed the breadth of the belief in the cockeyed notion that Barack Obama was not born in America. It's concentrated in the Republican Party, amongst conservatives and older voters, and in the South.
Perhaps racism isn't dead after all, and irrationality is loose in the Republican mainstream.
58% of Republicans believe that Obama isn't really an American or say they're not sure if he really is. 28% of Republicans say that the president is not an American, while 30% say they aren't sure if he is. Only 42% of Republicans say they believe that the president of the United States is an American.
With respect to all Americans, 77% believe that Obama is an American, 11% say he is not, and 12% aren't sure.
The breakdowns of Democrats and independents more than makes up for the crackpot Republican view. 93% of Democats and 83% of independents believe that Obama was born in the US, with only 4% and 8% believing he was not.
The regional breakdown is fascinating. 93% in the Northeast, 90% in the Midwest (which Obama represented in the Senate), and 87% in the West believe that Obama is really an American. But only 47% in the South say they believe what has repeatedly been shown to be the case.
The "birther" nonsense movement is an iteration of what I wrote about here on the Huffington Post last year, calling it "the Manchurian candidate fantasy," the notion that Obama is really a secret agent of a foreign power.
As that poor, benighted white woman sputtered to John McCain at an October town hall: "He's ... an Arab!"
If Obama were not black, with a "foreign"-sounding name, this dangerously irrational notion would not be so pernicious and insistent.
Ironically, the McCain campaign checked out the claim that Obama wasn't born in Hawaii and found it to be ridiculous. Of course they would check it out. What easier way to win the White House than to show that Obama is disqualified from the office?
And if the Talk Radio Wing weren't constantly spreading vicious disinformation, inciting a state of near hysteria and keeping those contributions rolling in.
Just last week came more confirmation that the "birther" nonsense is mainstream thinking for Republicans today, especially in the South. A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that only 54% of North Carolina voters say with certainty that they believe President Barack Obama was born in the United States, with 26% saying they think he was not, and 20% unsure. Amongst Republicans, 47% think Obama was not born in America, with 29% unsure, and just 24% stating that they think he was.
Obama won North Carolina last November.
That was an incredible breakthrough for a black man. But the old ways die hard, and the Confederacy still lives on in many hearts. Better for some, a great many as it turns out, to tell themselves -- or, more accurately, be told -- that it's all the result of a fantastic plot, a massive anti-American trick, and that a Manchurian candidate is in the White House.