MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's appalling to watch so many of the GOP presidential candidates try to outdo each other in trolling for racist and xenophobic votes by using the low-hanging fruit of bigotry.
Their basic message is that if one is not white, one is part of that great "threatening" mass that so many whites fear: "the other." This morphs into Republican presidential aspirants throwing out molotov cocktail soundbites, announcing in thinly veiled language that "the other" - in whatever guise - is both an existential and lethal threat to whites in the US.
One particular "off to the races" moment for the 2016 fusillade of vile appeals to whites - and particularly white Christians - who feel that their white privilege and religious "values" are under siege was Donald Trump's demagogic statement about Mexican-American refugees, unleashed during his candidacy announcement:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists....
But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.
It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably— probably— from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.
This was the initial dog whistle to white Christian voters that set off a GOP presidential stampede to ratchet up strident, factually incorrect appeals to prejudices.
It didn't take long for the GOP scrum to battle it out in the media for who could pour the most salt on the wound of intolerance.
After all, for eight years, many have claimed that Obama was not born in the United States and is not a Christian - that, in fact, he is really Muslim. Indeed, it did not take long for Trump's initial scapegoating of Mexicans to spill over into a scurrilous appeal to Islamophobia in the now infamous Trump Town Hall meeting in New Hampshire. It came, according to CNN, when the first audience participant who Trump called on made the following statement:
"We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims," an unidentified man who spoke at a question-and-answer town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire asked the mogul at a rally Thursday night. "You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American."
….Trump interrupted the man, chuckling, "We need this question. This is the first question."
"Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us," the man, wearing a "Trump" T-shirt, continued. "That's my question: When can we get rid of them?"
The mass media generally reported that Trump failed to correct the alleged "random voter" who made the incendiary comments. However, if you watch the tape of the encounter (which you can view at the top of the CNN article), Trump actually agreed with the man that President Obama may be Muslim: He said, "Right."
After the town hall participant finished, Trump appeared to want to reassure the bigot - who was encouraging the deportation or genocide (or perhaps both) of members of a religion:
"We're going to be looking at a lot of different things," Trump responded. "You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things."
What began as a Trump racist attack on refugees from Mexico and Latin America inevitably leeched into a wider appeal to the basest fears and prejudices of white Christians (and other whites). It wasn't long before even Evangelical favorite Ben Carson - who is Black - pronounced that no Muslim should be allowed to be president.
Trump also appeared to revel in the reemergence of the birther attacks on President Obama, while denying that he was fanning the flames. Slate explained that Trump is saying what many GOP voters believe, which polls confirm:
In a poll from left-leaning Public Policy Polling released earlier this month, only 29 percent of Republicans surveyed said they believed Obama was born in the United States. A plurality - 44 percent - said that he wasn't, while 26 percent said they were "not sure."
The idea that Obama is a Muslim, rather than practicing his professed Christian faith, is even more popular among GOP voters, with 54 percent saying he was a Muslim, 14 percent saying he was a Christian, and 32 percent saying they were "not sure."
Among Trump voters those numbers were even starker with 66 percent believing Obama is a Muslim and 61 percent saying they thought he wasn’t born in the United States.
Given these figures, it is hardly surprising that Mike Huckabee - as with so many of the other Republican candidates - is trying to squeeze in on the appeal to fears that white Christian privilege and power is being threatened. Huckabee used the occasion of the pope's visit to the White House to assert that Obama is "pretending" to be Christian.
The birther attacks, of course, have always been a coded attempt to defame and diminish a president who is Black, one of "the others." So are caustic charges that Obama is not Christian - that, he is secretly a Muslim.
The Republican presidential primary campaign, in large part, has become a jostling of wannabees trying to appeal to the most ignoble fears harbored by those in the white electorate who view the US as a white Christian nation.
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