The reverberations of the horrific terrorist attack in Paris continue to spread across the world and, predictably, quickly washed upon the shores of the U.S. presidential race. If the first few days worth of reactions are any indication, the Republican presidential campaign is about to get a lot more mean-spirited.
Republican leaders nearly immediately aimed their rhetoric at refugees, their first proposals focused on limiting or banning frightened Syrians fleeing the terrorist maniacs that are destroying their country. Multiple Republican governors came out on Monday declaring their state will refuse all Syrian refugees (never mind that it’s unconstitutional for individual states to reject a group of refugees based solely on their nationality, but then when do Republicans actually mean what they say nonstop about their reverence for the Constitution?).
Some Republicans would certainly push back against a characterization that this is part of anti-Muslim scapegoating. They’re simply being cautious, making sure no potential terrorists slip in with other peaceful refugees. One might give them the benefit of the doubt if Republican presidential candidates haven’t run unashamedly race-baiting campaigns for the entire 2016 cycle.
Ben Carson insisted a Muslim couldn’t be president, as they’d be unable to reject their proclivity for “sharia law.” Ted Cruz declared LGBT supporters are waging a “jihad” against “religious freedom.” Bobby Jindal only mentions his Indian heritage within stories about his path to Christianity, always seeming to want to distance himself from his cultural background, and even admonishes people who call themselves African-Americans or Indian-Americans. Trump brings families of victims of illegal immigrants to his rallies, a type of move long laced with racial undertones (his entire campaign has caused racism to flourish in the country). Jeb Bush suggested Democrats only win black votes because they offer “free stuff,” a type of rhetoric often used to imply that black people are lazy.
This new round of Muslim-bashing is simply an extension of this effort to appeal to the intolerant sensibilities of right-wing white voters who seem to dominate the Republican primary electorate at this point.
Bobby Jindal boasted of signing an executive order to stop Syrian refugees’ relocation into Louisiana (which currently has a whole 14 coming in this year). Ted Cruz divided the danger solely on religious grounds, claiming Christians refugees posed no risk, while Jeb Bush as well advocated prioritizing only the Christian refugees. President Obama slammed their religious test today as “not American.”
Mike Huckabee, in his unending efforts to win the “Most Despicable Human Being of 2016” award, told Fox News it’s time to “wake up and smell the falafel,” said America should outright close its borders and called for Speaker Paul Ryan’s resignation if he didn’t somehow block all Syrian refugees from the country. Huckabee even joked that the Syrians should be relocated to neighborhoods where “Limousine Liberals” live, or to the dorms at Mizzou, mocking their protests.
Marco Rubio went so far as to make a Nazi comparison when speaking of labeling the terrorists as “radical Islam.” His awkward phrasing of his analogy, however, seemed to imply a comparison between Nazis and all of Islam.
What does all this mean for the Republican candidates?
A number of political pundits opined in the near aftermath of the attacks that it may spell the end of the less-serious candidates like Ben Carson in favor of those like Jeb Bush, who people would see as a more credible commander-in-chief. These must be the same people who declared Trump would fade months ago.
Anyone’s who really been following the Republican race closely has seen time and again how the most caustic, racially insensitive rhetoric benefits the candidates who spout it. Trump’s tirades on dangerous immigrants and Carson’s denigrating comments about Muslim’s worthiness to serve in office were rewarded with boosts in the polls, even while they earn condemnation from most even-thinking Americans. If anything, candidates like Bush, Christie and Kasich will spend the next two weeks in news cycle purgatory as the more bombastic White House hopefuls dominate the headlines with slurs against refugees.
One would certainly hope an international crisis might refocus voters’ focus to the things that matter in a candidate. It won’t. By the way Republican Party voters have reacted this year, only the candidates most unfit to lead the country will benefit politically in the aftermath of these terrible acts of violence.
by Pat Rynard