Birtherism is rightly remembered as a racist conspiracy theory, born of an inability to accept the legitimacy of the first black president. But it is more than that, and the insistence that it was a fringe belief undersells the fact that it was one of the most important political developments of the past decade.
Birtherism is a synthesis of the prejudice toward blacks, immigrants, and Muslims that swelled on the right during the Obama era: Obama was not merely black but also a foreigner, not just black and foreign but also a secret Muslim. Birtherism was not simply racism, but nationalism—a statement of values and a definition of who belongs in America. By embracing the conspiracy theory of Obama’s faith and foreign birth, Trump was also endorsing a definition of being American that excluded the first black president. Birtherism, and then Trumpism, united all three rising strains of prejudice on the right in opposition to the man who had become the sum of their fears.
In this sense only, the Calamity Thesis is correct. The great cataclysm in white America that led to Donald Trump was the election of Barack Obama.
Adam Serwer on lurking nationalism.
A long but absolutely cracking essay on the influence of white nationalism on politics in the US.
As per usual with these things. Australians do not get to sit smug; anyone who thinks we don’t have our own equivalent of this here is freakin’ kidding their racist-ass self.