Daniel McCarthy has a theory about the “birther” craze, particularly its ease of adoption by self-described conservatives:
For them, being an American is not only about being a legal citizen, but about a subscribing to certain beliefs. Knowing that Obama is a de facto un-American, it might make sense (for a paranoiac) to suspect that he’s not a de jure American either.
For the movement Right, being an American means 1.) that you support U.S. military actions, no matter how questionable their strategic, moral, or constitutional grounds; 2.) you support capitalism — that is, corporate capitalism as it exists in the U.S. (if you don’t endorse this kind of economics, you must be a socialist or Communist); and 3.) you’re suspicious of Mexicans, Muslims, and non-British Europeans, especially the French, who are socialists and military weaklings. There might be a fourth item on the list: you ought to drive the most fuel-inefficient vehicle possible.
This, along with the use of rumors as proxy for racially-based fear mongering (quick, name a non-white birther other than Alan Keyes…) is the underlying detail. Birthers are the boiling point of a pot of views that its adherents define as “real America”, and as such see anything that conflicts with it as foreign. To them, despite mountains of evidence that all is generally as it was, Obama represents the impending death of “their” America. When that crazy woman in Delaware punctuated her outburst with “I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!!!”, this is what she meant.
Of course the actual political status quo, to anyone astute enough to acknowledge it, suggests that she has as much ownership (in terms of a say in its structure) of the U.S. as any of us do — which is to say jack squat. The real owners don’t have to yell about it, and use such misguided uber-patriot-cum-neo-brownshirt sentiment as just another pawn.
Edit: Yay, I got my first birther comment on this entry!