If one-fiftieth of 1 percent of Arizonans demanded that Ken Bennett, the state's Republican secretary of state, go to work in the nude, would he comply? Not likely.
After all, Bennett, the former Republican president of the Arizona Senate, is planning to run for governor in two years. It wouldn't pay to pander to crackpots -- and humiliate himself in the bargain. Or would it?
The question arises because Bennett, allegedly in response to e-mailed requests from 1,200 Arizonans, has demanded that Hawaii provide him with verification of President Obama's birth certificate. If he doesn't get it, he says, he might strike the president's name from the state's ballot this fall.
Never mind that Hawaii has confirmed publicly and repeatedly, since before the 2008 presidential election, that Obama was born there; that the Hawaii Department of Health has released both the short and long forms of the president's birth certificate; and that all this information, along with clear-as-a-bell explanations, is available to the public online.
Bennett hastens to add that he is no birther. Of course he isn't: Everyone knows that birthers -- the few who remain against the overwhelming facts of documentary evidence -- are half-baked clowns who live for their pet conspiracy theory. And Bennett, an energy company CEO and plausible gubernatorial candidate, couldn't be one of those. Could he?
More likely, he is simply throwing a bone to the birthers, who in most states constitute a laughable fringe of the Republican Party.
Hawaii may yet furnish Bennett with the already-public documentation he wants. So far, in compliance with state law, it has invited him to provide the legal authority under which the request was made.
Fine. Let the buffoonery play through its final act. But by threatening to exclude Obama from the ballot, Bennett transformed what should have been a farcical sideshow of the 2012 election into an actual menace to democracy.
He legitimized the lunatic leanings of the United States', and his party's, most extreme elements. He put it in the minds of radicals everywhere that elected officials, for the shabbiest reasons (or none at all), can float the idea of bending ballot rules and suffer no adverse consequence.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.