“Do I really need to spell this out for you?” is traditionally a rhetorical question.
But, when the subject at hand is American Muslims’ votes, the GOP consistently answers, “Yes.” Whether Republicans are inviting internationally infamous Islamophobes to speak at the Western Conservative Summit, or turning a deaf ear when voters reject Islamophobic GOP incumbents, they simply don’t seem to see any reason to mend fences or bury hatchets. In 2012, 85% of Muslim votes went to President Obama, a statistic Republican commentators prefer to use in their attacks on the President, rather than as the wake-up call it should be to their party.
A coalition of American Muslim organizations has formed to send a message directly to the GOP, starting with a full-page ad in the conservative Washington Times, spelling it out for Republicans.
According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (in a press release received by email):
That open letter to the GOP states in part:
“We are writing to offer an open invitation to reassess your party’s current relationship with American Muslims. As with other demographics, American Muslim support for Republicans has dropped precipitously in recent years. This shift away from the GOP is not set in stone, but its future direction is dependent on choices your party makes.”
In other words: Put Islamophobes in the corner, or face a future where Muslims are permanently stationed outside your “big tent,” voting consistently for Democrats.
“We don’t want your dirty, stinking votes,” apparently worked so well for the Republican Party with women, Hispanics, and the so-called 47% that they’re hammering the drum again, this time with regard to the Muslim vote. Which, if you’re a conservative voter, is a real shame. Many conservative values are well-aligned with American Muslims’ beliefs, including a preference for smaller government, private charity over social welfare programs, pro-life views, and support for individual gun ownership rights. Catholic Online, a Catholic news site, warned Republicans earlier this year that Muslim voters could decide the election, noting that Muslims don’t identify with a single political party but are willing to swing strongly in favor of an individual candidate:
[Romney's anti-Muslim remarks] might suggest that Obama would be the default choice for many Muslims, but that isn’t quite true. Many are upset at his failure to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, despite his promise to do so.
They are also displeased with his lackluster handling of domestic issues, particularly the economy. Muslim-Americans live and work, and pay taxes, the same as all other Americans, which in turn means that they share precisely the same anxieties about everything from gas prices, to the housing market, to employment.
It doesn’t have to be said that Muslims are Americans too — but unlike many Americans, they do not identity with one party or another, which makes them politically difficult to court. Unlike most demographics, it cannot be assumed they are in one camp or another.
That might just be the one thing former President George W. Bush knew that the rest of his party didn’t. In 2000, Muslims chose Bush over Gore. As a candidate, Bush fundamentally understood that his “compassionate conservative” values were well-aligned with American Muslims’ worries and hopes. Post-9/11, however, the Republican Party fell all over itself in its eagerness to forget everything conservatives had learned about the Muslim vote.
Even if Republicans are ready to listen, it’s a long road back. Just take a gander at these comments on a story reporting Muslims’ overwhelming support for the Democratic incumbent President. One example:
Of course they [chose Obama], he’s exempted them from Obamacare and opened all the borders so they can send their terrorists in, in droves, to build up their training camps. Sharia law is near and dear to the President’s heart and he can’t wait to hear the “sweetest sound on earth” the mus lem call to prayer ringing out at our nations capitol. Bet he’s got a prayer rug made of the aborted fetuses he so loves.
Cheap wins purchased with Islamophobic rhetoric have reached their expiration dates. Giuliani is irrelevant. Bachmann is heading there fast. Allen West is gone for good, and we can only hope he’ll take fellow Floridian Pamela Geller with him.
The Republican Party exploited anti-Muslim sentiment when America was grieving, and in doing so infected its own base with racist, xenophobic sentiment so vituperative, and so thoroughly bolstered over the years by mainstream Republican operatives, that it may now be ineradicable. CAIR says Muslims’ move away from the GOP “is not set in stone,” but even if Republicans spend the next four years backing away from religious hatred, it’s a long, uphill road back to the Bush coalition.