At this late date, Bell and his fellow believers in the notion that Obama was born overseas or is otherwise ineligible to be president still expect some court somewhere to buy into one of their theories. After more than 100 court cases, no judge has.
Even after Obama convincingly won reelection despite four years of low popularity ratings, a sluggish economy and a highly motivated opposition, advocates of various counterfactual theories about the president — he’s a foreigner, he’s a Marxist, he’s a Muslim — say they’re sticking to their fight.
“This inauguration is a mistake and those who permit it to happen will have to live with their own consciences,” says Bell, a former Washingtonian who retired to South Dakota.
Most Americans have moved on from earlier dalliances with denials of the president’s biography. National opinion polls have shown increases over the past three years in the percentage of Americans who agree that Obama was born in the United States and that he is a Christian. But a persistent minority — between a tenth and a fifth in most polls — still believe he is Muslim, foreign-born or a socialist.
Those voters tend to be vehement opponents of Obama, and on Inauguration Day, they will not be at the party — and they’re still searching for ways to have the president declared illegitimate.
“Let’s face it, this is a man very deep into an ideology that is not American,” says the Rev. Clenard Childress, a New Jersey minister and antiabortion activist who says black and white voters alike returned Obama to office “to feel better about ourselves and get the guilt of racism off us.”
Childress says it’s 50-50 that Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya: “But what I really care about is do we have the same values? Do you believe in the sanctity of life? Do you believe in marriage as being between man and woman? And this president does not.”
Just because the election is over doesn’t mean the confrontations of the first term will end, Childress says. In addition to the fiscal battles on Capitol Hill, the minister says, social issues will keep Obama opponents fired up, starting with next month’s antiabortion rally on the Mall and continuing with court and political battles over same-sex marriage.
“There will never be more contentiousness than in the next two years,” he says. “I told my congregation: Just strap yourselves down, it’s going to be nasty.”
Those who monitor anti-Obama movements say the inauguration will do nothing to quiet the rapids. “The rhetoric since the election has actually gotten more vicious,” says Kevin Davidson, better known as “Dr. Conspiracy,” his handle on his Web site, Obama Conspiracy Theories, which keeps tabs on those who declare Obama’s presidency illegitimate.