Daniel Larison doesn’t think that Bobby Jindal would be the subject of birther-type suspicions in a Republican primary:
Even though Jindal came to Christianity as a convert just as Obama did, it is the kind of Christianity he embraced that makes a huge difference. His religion and nationalism together immunize him fairly well against any attacks or conspiracy theories of the kind that have been used against Obama. If he were just a traditional Catholic, but not a nationalist, that could create friction with many constituencies in the GOP, and if he were just a secular or non-Christian nationalist he would run into significant resistance from many Christian voters, but the combination makes him acceptable to a broad cross-section of the party. Religious identity politics shields him from being regarded as “Other,” and among a significant number of Republicans his story of first-generation American assimilation and success is one of the main reasons why Jindal is so well-liked. Perhaps just as important, Jindal provides Republican voters with the opportunity to demonstrate their color-blind, anti-racist credentials, and they will jump at the chance to support him, if only to spite people on the left who expect them to do otherwise.
Chris Orr thinks he he will be:
The problem is that it’s not Jindal who needs to overcome anything; it’s voters, in this case Republican voters, and their moods, like any, ebb and flow with the political tides.
Now, obviously it’s still early days in the GOP’s journey of post-November self-definition, and it may yet find a way to arrest its devolution into the Party of White Anger and Paranoia before 2012. But so far I think it’s safe to say that the party’s trajectory has not been a promising one–for Jindal, for the GOP, or for the nation generally.
My opinion: of course Jindal will be birthered if he runs in 2012 or 2016, though not in the same way that Obama has been. Think about the way the birther rumors have spread. There hasn’t been much institutional support for it, outside those crazy billboards, because it’s seen by most Republicans as a losing issue. My guess is that it has mostly spread via those crazy chain emails older wingers are always sending each other, with some help from talk radio. Simply put, it has spread spontaneously.
Anti-Jindal birtherism would probably not grow spontaneously, for the reasons that Larison gives. But it wouldn’t have to, because his primary opponents would be pushing it. How hard is it to get political operatives to start forwarding around chain emails about how Jindal’s really a Hindu or a Muslim or was really born in India? Not very. None of this will be done openly or publicly, mind you, but it will be done.
In 2008, Mitt Romney done in largely by anti-Mormon bigotry, some of which was openly and publicly stoked (see Huckabee, Mike). And he was the favored candidate of right-wing radio. You think something like that wouldn’t happen to Bobby Jindal?
Larison’s point about religion is well-taken here; Romney’s from a non-mainstream religion, Huckabee isn’t. But given the mechanisms by which birtherism has spread, it’s going to be awfully tempting for rival campaigns to start flooding wingers inboxes with JINDAL IS TEH HINDOO.