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:
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail