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Another group of voters the GOP lost

Since the election results came in, Republicans have been given lots of advice about how to save their party from irrelevancy by broadening their focus, and their working definition of "American." Don Wycliff wrote perceptively here at dotCommonweal about the GOP's "undisguised hostility to non-traditional Americans." Eduardo Penalver wrote about race as a factor in the election, noting that "the Republican party has coddled and relied on overt racists (people like Joe Arpaio, who was elected to a sixth term last night) for far too long."The suggestion that the Republican party is consciously exploiting racism and bigotry for political ends has met with some pushback. (After all, as Tom Scocca wrote in a provocative and, I think, highly accurate piece for Slate, "White people don't like to believe that they practice identity politics.") But I defy anyone to argue that the GOP has not been culpable in embracing the crudest kind of bigotry when it comes to one particular subset of Americans: Muslims.Rany Jazayerli, a blogger who I gather usually writes about the Kansas City Royals, posted a long and compelling essay, "The GOP and Me," at his blog on election day. I recommend it as an intelligent and thoughtful take on how the GOP has lost the trust of Muslims in this country -- an often overlooked story, and one that I think overlaps in many ways with the party's relationship with other minority groups. As Jazayerli writes, he started out a committed Republican, like his immigrant father before him:

[A] political party whose platform rested on tax cuts and placed small business owners on a pedestal well, they didnt have to ask my father twice.... My parents had settled in America to get away from an authoritarian regime in their homeland, and here came a man running for President on the platform that the best way to govern was to leave the public alone. All my parents wanted was to be left alone, to work and raise their children and own a house with a finished basement and a white picket fence. My dad, who had just obtained his American citizenship in 1978, became a reliable supporter of the Republican Party, both with his ballot and occasionally with his checkbook. He wasnt alone. Most immigrant Muslims to America once they obtained their citizenship joined the Reagan Revolution.

He cites some numbers I haven't verified, but if they're accurate, they're certainly worthy of note:

In the 2000 election, approximately 70% of Muslims in America voted for Bush; among non-African-American Muslims, the ratio was over 80%.Four years later, Bushs share of the vote among Muslims was 4%.

And this Yahoo News story says that "in 2008, 89 percent of Muslims who voted supported Barack Obama" -- and according to a CAIR exit poll, "more than 85 percent of American Muslim voters picked President Obama in Tuesday's election."So, what changed? Jazayerli rightly points out that President Bush was admirably careful not to cast suspicion or blame on Muslims, and especially Muslim-Americans, after 9/11. But his policies were not so careful. And after he left office, the party lost all its caution when it came to prejudice against Muslims. Jazayerli provides ample evidence for his assertion that "the Republican Party made it crystal clear to the Muslim community that we were all under suspicion." He reminds readers of several examples of politicized persecution of Muslim groups, in particular the disgusting campaign against the "Ground Zero Mosque." (If you've forgotten just how vile that particular circus got, you can read our editorial on the subject, or revisit the coverage at dotCommonweal in August 2010.) Jazayerli writes, "It was not lost on the Muslim community that, with very few exceptions (most notably Senator Harry Reid), every politician who was publicly opposed to the project was Republican."And then of course there was the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, when Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and others vied to outdo each other in decrying the threat of Muslim infiltration and "sharia law" to the American way of life. Remember when Cain said he wouldn't allow a Muslim to serve in his administration? Jazayerli adds,

Mitt Romney, perhaps because he is a member of a religious minority himself, has not said anything nearly as inflammatory about Muslims. On the other hand, he once said, in response to a question about whether a Muslim might serve in his Cabinet, based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position would be justified. Im waiting for him to say the same thing about Episcopalians, or Jews - or Mormons.

Obviously, in answering that question, Romney was a lot more concerned about reassuring the GOP base than he was about defending the rights of Muslim Americans. Which is too bad for him, because, as Jazayerli wrote: "If Nate Silver is right, not only will Romney lose the election, but it can be safely said that if the Muslim community had voted the same way they had in 2000, he would have won."The rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric has greater consequences than electoral turnout. But it is, among other things, a concrete example of how the GOP is alienating the voters it will need in the future in order to keep the ones it has counted on in the past.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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I'm not a Republican. But it seems to me that the Republican party has more than its fair share of Chicken Littles. In other words, Chicken Littles appear to be over-represented in the Republican party and in the ranks of elected Republicans.Now, both the unelected and the elected Republican Chicken Littles tend to discover that the sky is falling, when it may not be, and they tend to sound the alarms that the sky is falling, when it may not be.But please don't misunderstand here. Even though it seems to me that the Republican party has more than its fair share of Chicken Littles, I am not urging the Democratic party to try to compete with the Republican party to work out a fairer share of Chicken Littles for each party to have.However, I think that the Republican party may need to work on toning down, shall we say, certain Republican Chicken Littles.

It might be worth noting Romney's response to the 2007 charge made by Mansoor Ijaz, as reported by NYT and CNN:-----------After the Florida campaign appearance today, Mr. Romney was askedabout the report.His question was: Do I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet? Mr. Romney said, according to ABC News. And I said no. I dont think that you have to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to be able to take on radical jihad.Mr. Romney went on to say that he would be open to appointing someone of any faith to his Administration. question was did I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet, said Romney, and I said, 'No I don't think you need to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to take on radical jihad any more than during the second world war we needed to have a Japanese American to help us understand the threat that was coming from Japan.

Once again the readers of commonweal are invited to join in further bashing Republicans. I live in Oklahoma where there is no shortage of conservatives or republicans. I'm not aware of any movement here to think of all Muslims as jihadi extremists poised to do us all in. Perhaps that's because the Murrah bombing was perpetrated by good old fashioned white guys. BO has been killing Muslims in Afghanistan and used to do so in Iraq. If Iran should succeed in actually building a deliverable nuclear weapon, he'll be killing lots of Muslims there as well. The problem is not Muslims, the problem is violent extremists who erroneously believe that fidelity to The Prophet and to the teachings of the Quran is measured by the number of infidels slain. I don't know why so few Muslims turned out for Romney but surely it's not because Republicans want to do them in. Romney lost because not enough people who opposed a second Obama term showed up to vote. He lost because the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to demonize him in swing states succeeded. BTW, there's been a lot of talk about how candidates like Akin and Mourdock were typical of Republicans. Romney carried both Missouri and Indiana nonetheless.

John W. Feehily said: "I live in Oklahoma where there is no shortage of conservatives or republicans. Im not aware of any movement here to think of all Muslims as jihadi extremists poised to do us all in. "January 10, 2012|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles TimesAppeals court affirms order blocking Oklahoma sharia law ban A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that blocked the implementation of an Oklahoma law barring judges from considering international or Islamic law in their decisions.The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling released Tuesday, affirmed an order by a district court judge in 2010 that prevented the voter-approved state constitutional amendment from taking effect. The ruling also allows a Muslim community leader in Oklahoma City to continue his legal challenge of the law's constitutionality.

How is talking about the country's demographic change its effect on a political party "Republican bashing"?Republicans are all over the airwaves these days talking about this and taking responsibility for their failure to address an increasingly diverse voting population. NPR had a panel of three GOP advisers--a Latina, a Tea-Partyer, and a young person--each of whom had a different idea about what should be done. Talking about immigration reform in less inflammatory language, finding more "minority" candidates, and explaining how conservatism will improve the economy for young people were floated. Other GOP leaders have been on the radio saying that Republicans have to back off their doctrinaire stance on reproductive rights and gay civil unions, something young Republicans are apparently uncomfortable with.Despite my own political leanings, I've always liked Republicans. They're pragmatic, cautious, and fiscally prudent. They follow rules, like order, go to church and fear God. As neighbors, they tend to be quiet, tidy, and don't let their dogs run loose.

Unless those dogs are military contractors, in which case...

It is not just the GOP that has to worry about Obama's significant victory, but also the Vatican and U.S. bishops who lost their large bet against Obama.For a brief description of the gloom awaiting the Catholic hierachy, please read, "About Obama's Papal Victory...", accessible at:

Islam, as we all should know, is no more a monolithic religion than Christianity. Two things are simultaneously true. The first is that there is a definite Islam-o-phobia in the US. I would not say that this is restricted to Republicans. New Yorkers flipped when somebody wanted to build a mosque near he twin towers. So much for multi-culturalism. Granted, it is likely to be Republicans who are the most vocal against it. However, if we are going to go down the religion track, it may have helped them with Jewish voters. While the Jewish vote still went overwhelmingly to Obama, there was a significant increase in support for Romney among American Jews and apparently Jews living in Israel backed Romney 75 - 25 %.The other point is that the Wahhabi strain of Islam is the dominant strain that is being taught in prisons and for converts. It is funded by Saudi Arabia and is much stricter in its interpretation. European countries, notably France, have had fairly strong xenophobic reactions to the rise in Muslim immigration. Finally, Islam itself is struggling with its adaptation to modernity. There has been no comparable Second Vatican Council for Islam and more extremist interpretations (e.g. Wahhabi) are rising just at the same time as the impact of Westernization (globalization) is taking place.In Ontario, the Ontario government was considered allowing Sharia law to be used for civil cases involving divorce. There was actually an outcry from the Muslim women who felt that they would not be protected under that system of law. It would be like the Vatican investigating Bishops handling of sex abuse cases by clergy. I doubt most of us would have confidence in the outcome of that judicial process.

Besides the Muslim vote Obama won the millionaire vote too. San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Greenwich, Westchester,Manhatten Hollywood,etc voted for Obama.. The dumb GOP will want to go over the fiscal cliff so the millionaires who won't vote for the GOP, keep their low tax rate.. Go figure? The two millionaires in West Virginia and Idaho will send the GOP thank you cards for jumping over the cliff. And Carl Rove thought these GOP guys would win!!GOP keep Jumping off the cliff for millionaires and do your racist best to keep the rural knownothings in your party.

At least one Republican has seen the light. William Kristol now says it won't kill the country if we raise taxes on millionaires. I had also read that many small businessmen (who do pay taxes) are also starting to see the light. That's what happens when a party represents only the tiniest portion of the people.

I posted elsewhere that doesn't anyone who makes over $250,000 year after deductions and is not a multi millionaire needs a spiritual director even more than a financial counselor?For the GOPers to jump over the cliff for them is bizarre and knowing that these multi-millionaires most likely voted for Obama is even more bizarre.

George Dthere are books available on Islam by Christian writers and ,I know a lot of work is going on about Muslim-Christian relationsips, but I've not come across anything about Muslim struggle with adaption to modernism. Do you have any good references?

Obviously the GOP went too harsh on indocumentados, however why a Muslim would vote for a Democrat I cannot imagine. Republicans will need to realize they need to cooperate in granting some sort of amnesty to indocumentados, and they have four years to get that much figured out.Otherwise, if Romney had garnered as much of the Latino vote as Bush usually did, he probably would have won.Republicans will have another chance in 2016. For now, with Obama-care effectively settled law and Liberals happier than they have been in many years, two big items on the to-do list, are for Roman Catholic bishops to look around and find the cheapest deals on 1) bc pills and 2) abortionists.

I presume that reader Baldwin may be among those willing to begin the next human rights campaign insuring that Sharia law will be enshrined alongside American jurisprudence. I wonder, though, if Muslim American women will be easily recruited for that campaign. The good citizens of Oklahoma were simply willing to state out loud what the vast majority of Americans believe. This does not make us anti-Muslim anymore than opposing the president's policies makes us anti-black.

John Feehily, I do not think you fully understand. To doctrinaire, hard-Left Liberals, there are no "good citizens of Oklahoma". To a certain sort of liberal, the people to whom you refer are in fact the problem, and in that view, error has no rights.

@mary bergan (11/11, 5:37 pm) I found Reza Aslan's "No God But God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam" to be helpful on this topic. If I recall correctly, Aslan argues, among other things, that Islam may well be going through its own version of the Reformation that western European Christianity experienced in the 16th and 17th centuries.@Ken (11/12, 12:04 pm) I found your opening statement "...why a Muslim would vote for a Democrat I cannot imagine" provocative. I suspect that if enough Republicans find that a powerful enough question to be willing to get to know their Muslim neighbors well enough to have that conversation, and if enough Republicans are willing to absorb the answers they hear, and let those answers influence them, then significantly more Muslims will vote for Republicans in future elections.@John W. Feehily (11/12, 12:19 pm) Given that there is no organized effort to enshrine sharia in U.S. law (let alone in Oklahoma law), one could (and many American Muslims apparently did) draw the conclusion that the Oklahoma anti-sharia campaign was motivated more by fear, distrust and hatred of Muslims than it was by, say, a genuine commitment to human rights by its leaders and organizers.Any political party that goes from receiving 70% of the vote from one constituency to receiving 10% of the vote from the same constituency in less than a decade would be well within its rights---indeed, well within its own interests---to ask how and why that happened, and what changes would need to take place within the party to regain the support of that constituency.

Ed, On the President winning the millionaire vote: Gov. Romney actually won the Town of Greenwich ("Hedge Fund Heaven") with 16,457 votes to 13,078 for the President. It's true that in Fairfield County, home to Greenwich and other "Gold Coast" towns, the vote went for Pres. Obama 55%-44%, but those results include the city of Bridgeport. Given the demographics, the fact that 45% of Greenwich voted for the President should be pretty encouraging to the Democrats.

"If Nate Silver is right, not only will Romney lose the election, but it can be safely said that if the Muslim community had voted the same way they had in 2000, he would have won."That's pretty amazing.

HI Mary:It has been awhile since I read on the subject. Bernard Lewis who is controversial and at the conservative end of the spectrum wrote on the subject. Now he is Jewish writing about Muslims.Bassam Tibi is a Muslim scholar who tried to write dispassionately on the subject. He wrote Islam's predicament with modernity.

On Paul Krugman's blog today he presents some very interesting figures about ethnic voting, plus some interesting thoughts about what might happen in the future.

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