The Politics of Legitimacy

President Obama has never been a “legitimate” president in the eyes of the right wing in the United States. During his campaign in 2008, they accused him of “palling around with terrorists” when he began his career in politics. They called him a Muslim which, by most definitions, is a legitimate religion — but not if you’re from south of Virginia and west of Pittsburgh. Those should’ve been warning signs, but the country’s remaining minority of intellectual superstars opined that it was probably just the overheated politics of the campaign. And Sarah Palin. And both things would soon be a thing of the past.


In the years that followed, our allegedly Muslim Terrorist President (TM) suddenly also became foreign. His parents had lived in Indonesia for a time, and he was born in Hawaii. And both places are foreign to Americans who really don’t ever travel — anywhere. Demands for his “long form” birth certificate lasted nearly three years until he finally produced one during the Republican primary season. Donald Trump, largely blinded by his large collection of gold, still does not believe the president is a legitimate American citizen.

So, after the birth certificate issue was finally resolved, we all thought it was over. The intelligent left wing of American politics breathed a sigh of relief. That is, of course, until the general election kicked into full gear. America has largely been on Obama’s side, and he has led in the polls for the vast majority of the general election. How does the right react? By saying the polls are illegitimate, skewed, biased, and wrong. They even invented their own website,, where they literally manipulate the data to show how badly Obama is losing — when he isn’t.

Then, the September jobs report came out just after the first debate between Obama and Romney. The jobs report showed an expanding labor market, increased consumer confidence, and a dramatically lower unemployment rate that is, for the first time, lower than it was when Obama took office. This is good news for America, which means it’s bad news for Republicans. They reacted by saying the report was “cooked” and misleading and manipulated and wrong. When unemployment was near 10 percent, however, they cited it as the number one reason Obama should be voted out. So which is it?

Over the past four years, all we have heard from the Republican Party is that Obama is illegitimate — he’s not a citizen, he’s a terrorist, he’s a much-dreaded Muslim, he’s cooking the books on unemployment (unless it’s high!), and the polling companies are producing biased polls (he can’t possibly be popular or winning!). This is evidence that there is no “choice” in this election. Not really. There are no big ideas, no big changes, nothing.

This election is about whether or not Obama is book-cooking terrorist Muslim America-hater. He isn’t any of those things. But he is almost certainly going to enjoy a second term, largely because the opposition has been reduced from Big Ideas to Big Pitchforks.