So Donald Trump and Ben Carson, easily the top two candidates for the Republican nomination, are both peddling anti-Muslim bigotry to the voters. This comes after several months in which Trump in particular has provoked and encouraged anti-immigrant sentiment — throwing in a dollop or two of crass misogyny along the way — and then surfed on that sentiment to take a dominant position in GOP polling.
You have to wonder: What does that tell people outside the party who are looking on and marveling at what animates the modern GOP?
It’s particularly striking because at least part of the party understands quite well the long-term damage being done to the Republican cause. I keep coming back to the party’s self-autopsy after losing the 2012 presidential race, the fifth popular-vote rejection of the party’s candidate in the last six election cycles:
“Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us. …If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity.“
So they know. They know that the image of their party as intolerant and mean is weakening whatever chance they may have to win the White House and begin to implement a wide range of policies that they hold dear, from the economy to foreign policy. But even with that knowledge, the party just can’t help itself. The assertion above is that “many minorities wrongly think” that Republicans don’t want them here, yet based on the available evidence, that perception doesn’t seem wrong at all. And while it’s true that candidates such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have taken a more mainstream, responsible approach to such issues, look where they stand in the polling.
Once the rhetoric moves beyond “dog whistles” and code words, once it’s out there in all of its red-meat glory, stripped of subtlety and camouflage, it becomes hard to walk it back and repackage it.
Also, take a look at this screengrab of the homepage for Breitbart.com today. Recognize a theme?
The blustery boys at Breitbart like to fancy themselves as macho defenders of the American way — just yesterday, a Breitbart “reporter” proudly got himself thrown out of a press conference called by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. But the truth is that they’re scared little men peddling fear to other scared little men. (The immigration report cited by Breitbart is also the lead item on Drudge, to which all of the above also applies.)
There’s no optimism there, no confidence in the power of American ideals and values to appeal to new generations of immigrants, just as they have in the past. It’s just bitterness and fear, and if that’s all you’ve got, then your future is just as bleak as you fear it to be.