I'm sure all of you have seen Romney's birther comment by now, but I'm going to reproduce it here for easy access:
Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital, I was born in Harper Hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.Here's the thing, though. I see almost everyone referring to it as 'a joke'. It's not a joke. He doesn't say it in a joking tone. Some in the audience may have found it funny, but he was making an aggressive, affirmative statement: I was born here. I'm a real American. Obama isn't.
Romney's embrace of racist identity politics is sickening, but it's not unexpected. He has had King-Birther Donald Trump as his top surrogate for months, and in recent weeks he's been running with false, racially-tinged attacks against Obama's welfare reform waivers. The only surprise is that he's decided to stop using surrogates and insinuations, and instead do it himself.
Watch the video again. That's not how you joke. I suppose you could try to brush it off as Mitt being uncharismatic, but even he knows how to change his tone when making an attempt at humor. He's making a firm comparison, complete with forceful pointing. He's a Michigan born and raised white American. Obama is a possibly Kenyan-born black man who has spent his portions of his life in far away foreign places. Obama isn't like you, Romney is telling his mostly white crowd, but I am.
In Romney's tale, Obama is the 'other'. The other that can be blamed and the hated. The other who is causing all the world's troubles. Obama doesn't understand America. He might have been born in Hawaii, but it's easy to see why people think he wasn't. He's foreign in mindset if not in in reality. He wants us to be like Europe. He doesn't understand how hard you work for your money, and he wants to give it to greedy welfare recipients. He doesn't look like you.
Of course, all this ignores the fact that Obama's life story is quintessentially American: born to a single mother in Hawaii, he worked hard, earned a good education and rose to the highest levels of success. Romney, on the other hand, has lived his whole life in privilege, dodged the draft by going to France, and has spent his 65 years completely distanced from the struggles of most Americans.
None of this matters, however. Obama is black. Romney is white. Romney knows that there's a vein of racial resentment that can be tapped, and he's now shown that he's very willing to do it himself.
I wish people would stop calling Romney's remark a joke. It wasn't a birther joke. It's far beyond that. It's an embrace of those who seek to paint Obama as substantially un-American, and a blatant attempt to rally racists to his side.