FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rightward Drift

by JAMES ZOGBY

The contest has begun to determine who will be the Republican candidate to square off against President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential elections. For months now, individuals have been announcing their intention to run, or to form “exploratory committees” to determine whether or not they should run. At present, the field — though not complete — includes three former governors (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman) a former senator (Rick Santorum), the former speaker of the House of Representatives (Newt Gingrich), two current members of Congress (Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul) and a businessman (Herman Cain). At this point, Romney, who also ran for president in 2008, holds a lead over the current field. Given the fact, however, that he was a moderate Republican governor (who, during his term in office, passed a healthcare reform bill sharing some features with the legislation passed by President Obama), and is a Mormon, makes some conservatives and rightwing evangelical Christians uncomfortable.

The rest of the group, though large and diverse in background, is flawed, with most polls showing that the Republican faithful appear dissatisfied with the choices before them, still hoping for a “star” to come forward to claim the party’s leadership role. With most of the more moderate and experienced Republicans having opted out of this election, the “star” of the moment is Rick Perry, the governor of Texas. Even with this incomplete field of candidates, it was interesting to tune into CNN’s Republican presidential debate last week. What came through quite clearly was how far to the right the Republican Party has drifted, a fact that will not change even in the unlikely case that a “star” emerges to rescue the party — since Perry, for example, is merely a taller, more Texan, and charismatic version of the rest of the current field of candidates.

This rightward drift came into sharp focus in responses to two questions asked during the debate. At one point in the debate, an audience member, a long time Republican leader in New Hampshire, after making clear that he was a moderate, non-ideological, mainstream Republican, asked the candidates for assurance that they would “have a balanced approach to governing, to solve our serious problems”. Either ignoring the question or choosing to deliberately slight the questioner, each of the candidates who responded focussed on burnishing their ideological credentials and paying homage to the Tea Party. This, of course, can become a problem for today’s Republican Party. There is no question that the Tea Party and its fervid opposition to the president and his agenda energised Republicans, helping them regain control of Congress in 2010. Emboldened by their success, the Tea Party has continued to flex its muscles, threatening to be the “kingmakers” in the Republican primaries. Hence, the candidates are loathed to distance themselves from this movement. But while the presidential primaries, like mid-term Congressional contests, are notoriously low turnout elections, drawing support from the “fired up” party faithful, presidential elections are a different story. In these contests, more moderate and independent voters often determine the outcome and if the New Hampshire questioner is any indication of the mood of this group, they are frightened by the Tea Party and looking for non-ideological problem-solving approaches to governance. It may very well be that in the process of ingratiating themselves with the groups they need to win the primaries, Republicans will damage their ability to compete in the November 2012 election.

Another disturbing example of this Republican drift toward extremism came in response to a question about whether or not the candidates would be comfortable having a Muslim American serve in their administration. The question first went to Cain who had on a previous occasion indicated that he would “not be comfortable with a Muslim”. In response, he elaborated on his views, saying his concern with Muslims was prompted by the concern that they “are the ones trying to kill us” and strangely inserting that he did “not believe in Sharia law”. He then went on to insist that he would single out Muslims for a pledge of loyalty to the US before considering them for government service.

Gingrich chimed in adding that he believed that a loyalty oath for Muslims seeking to work in government was a good idea because, despite its being unpopular, “we did this in dealing with Nazis and… with the communists… we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.” While Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Santorum were not asked to respond to this question, they have all been on the record making equally shameful comments about Muslims and raising fears about Sharia law.

Only Romney, already on the defensive over his Mormon faith, offered a constructive comment. After paying lip-service to the anti-Sharia law mindset, saying that “we’re not going to have Sharia law applied in US courts” he went on to add that “we recognise that people of all faiths are welcome in this country. Our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance”.

What was especially disturbing about this particular exchange was the silence of Republican leaders in the days that followed the debate. Their refusal to condemn these displays of bigotry and intolerance only adds to the concern that the party is courting extremist currents and, as a result, has continued on a dangerous rightward drift.

James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obama-care
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail