BIRTHER NONSENSE SPREADING IN STATE CAPITALS…. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn’t want to talk about it. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) doesn’t want to talk about it. But their Republican allies in state legislature don’t mind talking about it at all.

The opening of 2011 state legislative sessions has been accompanied by a spate of birther-related bills, the clearest indication yet that the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s place of birth will continue to simmer throughout his reelection campaign.

Lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced bills requiring presidential candidates to provide some form of proof that they are natural-born citizens, a ballot qualification rule designed to address widespread rumors on the right that Obama was not born in the United States.

This is more than just annoyance about idiotic jokes at CPAC, this is about 10 legislatures advancing actual legislation in response to insane conspiracy theories.

Adam Serwer had a smart item the other explaining the “post-birtherism” phase of Republican thought: “Since the Republican base has long seemed impossible to sway from clinging to certain symbolic beliefs in the face of verifiable facts, conservatives have adapted to birtherism by making a joke out of it…. But by making jokes about it, conservative political figures manage to avoid taking a position one way or the other. They mollify the birther elements of the Republican base who simply can’t accept the legitimacy of a black man in the White House by signaling agreement with them, while allowing Republicans averse to conspiracy theorizing to dismiss it all as a jest.”

And while that’s certainly true, let’s not forget that in nearly a dozen state capitals, Republicans haven’t quite gotten to the “post-birtherism” phase, because they’re still stuck in the actual birtherism phase.

Also note, Dave Weigel explained recently that some of the GOP birther bills in state legislatures go even further than demanding proof of birth in the United States, and actually target Barack Obama specifically, removing any pretense of larger principles of transparency and accountability.

Congressional Republican leaders don’t want to “tell people what to think,” but would they at least be willing to characterize these crazy state efforts as ridiculous?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.