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I find the whole birther thing fascinating.

Donald Trump is the latest in a long line of populists.

Sounds like a good thing, “people” and “popular” come to mind.

Populism, however, in America, is, as the picture above illustrates, an intellectual bad hair day.

Populism has tended, in our history, to have racist overtones. Demagogues would heat up the less educated chunk of the white majority, and prey on their fears. Xenophobia (fear of everything foreign) is the easiest fear to nail.

Barack Hussein Obama is the first US president to have a non-country-club name.

Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, George Bush, Bill Clinton.

All WASP-y names that bear the homey scent of a Norman Rockwell painting, complete with the turkey dinner.

And now we get a half white-Kansas, half black-Kenyan in office with a Muslim-sounding name.

And his being a Columbia-Harvard type distances him even more from the Bubbas at Chatterbox Cafe diner.

For a lot of Americans, he doesn’t feel like “one of us.”

So we have to find something to prove that hunch. Birth certificates. Grades. LSAT scores. The birther thing is not going to go away; it will just move on to other suspicions. They are scouring the nation to find something, anything, to prove that their queasyness is legit.

I’m surprised it took someone so long (Trump) to cash in on it. A (very) white Presbyterian, plain-talking guy (with a few things of his own to hide).

If anything will win the election for the Democrats, it’s this. The populist/birther thing will energize the less educated part of the far right, but it will alienate the moderate middle.

And it’s the moderate middle that decides every election. The 49 to 51 percent voter in the dead center decides every election.

Truth is, though (and truth is always important), there are more white people in America than ever before. It’s just that we’ve been joined by a lot of Asians and Latinos. The African-American population is substantially lower (by percentage of the total population) than it was right before the civil war (then about 20% of Americans were black).

Why have we been joined by so many others?  Because we are an open society with great opportunity. By the end of this century, or certainly by the end of the next, we will most likely mirror the racial mix of the whole world:

43% Caucasian (including Latinos and those Caucasians from Northern India)

15% African

34% East (Chinese/Japanese) and SE Asian

11% Non-Caucasian Asian Indian

That’s because America SHOULD be an exceptional country where the best and brightest from everywhere want to come here.

You know, Statue of Liberty stuff.

We need to embrace an American exceptionalism, but not one based on being white, or being afraid of the world. One based on free enterprise, democracy, civil rights, hard work, and a continent-wide energy level unknown anywhere else on earth.

If you vote against Obama (as I did in the last election), do so because of his politics or track record, not because of his vague “foreign-ness.”

Time to put the birther thing to bed.

We are a great nation and we have work to do.

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