Monday, April 18, 2011

Forget 'birthers' — 'thirders' are scarier

   Donald Trump leads other Republicans by 9 points in a new Public Policy Polling presidential survey. That tells us this much: Democrats, you haven't had as bad a year as you think.

   If Trump is the Republicans' offering to lead us, Walter Mondale at last may be able to surrender that traveling trophy for worst modern-day Electoral College pummeling.

   But, wait. It says here that Trump is a dead-solid lock to get at least 33 percent of the popular vote, if not a vote more.

   How can I make that preliminary prediction? That's easy.

   Based on any number of polls, one of three Americans could be led to believe anything — particularly if damning about Barack Obama. And they would vote for anybody else — even a body in the late stages of decomposition.

    If asked, "Do you believe President Obama was Patient Zero for Chagas disease?" One third of Americans would answer "yes." And then fearfully look the ailment up.

    It's a fascinating parlor game to see what this particular third of the nation is asserting — or buying, as it were.

    The most recent poll I find on the origin of Obama's birth — and since when do said matters come down to polling data? — finds that, sure enough, roughly 30 percent of Americans don't think he was born here. It wouldn't matter what (type in "Obama birth"), or even the righter-than-right National Review say in ridiculing the notion. These people believe what they believe.

     "Birthers" like Trump are only a curious subset of a curiouser set. They are among the "thirders," one third of us — those who defy most logic, and most evidence, supplying their own brand of it at every turn, often aided by Fox News and rabbit holes of hoax, innuendo and pseudo-information on the Internet.

     What defines a thirder? Assertions like these:

      A thirder believes that Saddam Hussein was tied to the 9/11 attacks. Still.

      A thirder believes that the WMDs were found. The media are just covering it up.

      A thirder believes that Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and Joe the Plumber are well-read.

      A thirder believes that if Mike Huckabee says Obama was born in Kenya, that settles it.

      A thirder believes that despite every intimation of every founder in designing a framework for many faiths, what they really had in mind was a Christian nation.

      A thirder believes still that AIDS is a punishment from God for being a male homosexual.

      A thirder believes that evolution is a lie, as is climate change and most of whatever most scientists say — and where are their birth certificates?

      A thirder believes that global warming is Al Gore's theory.

      The fact that a third of Americans believe these things explains why Glenn Beck can rustle up a crowd verging on huge at the Lincoln Memorial. One-third is a lot of us, and many of those people have day privileges.

     It's enough, for sure, for "tea parties" to form and to rivet the media's and Republican politicians' attention, and for many to believe that in the sound, fury and quaint signs like "Obama's plan: white slavery" these people speak for America.

    Well, they do, for one third of America. Check the polls.

    Karl Rove understood this. He knew that if his party focused on keeping one third of us in a froth based on hot-button issues like abortion, gay marriage and, of course, menacing Muslims, all a candidate need to do is win a relatively small portion of the reasonable, or reasoned vote, to have the one-vote majority to hold office. Even if that one vote was in the Supreme Court.

     Donald Trump can do the same. Or Sarah Palin. Or Mike Huckabee. Or Newt Gingrich.

     Which of them will be the first to try out that "white slavery" slogan?

     Come on, candidates. Listen to the voice of the people.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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