SO MUCH FOR OUTREACH…. In a good piece over the weekend, Politico‘s Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman noted the ways in which the Republican Party, post-Bush, has dropped the pretense and become deliberately hostile towards the entire faith tradition of Islam, even Muslim Americans. It seems hard to remember, but there was once an “active courtship of Muslim voters” by the Republican Party — before and after 9/11.
It’s probably fair to say that courtship is over.
Sam Stein reports today on Muslim and Arab-American Republicans who are “working behind the scenes to try and tone down their own party’s rhetoric.”
Organized informally, the group includes officials who served in the Bush administration or have strong ties to GOP leadership. Their concerns are twofold: that there is something fundamentally unconstitutional about opposing the Islamic cultural center and that the tenor of conservatives risks alienating the Muslim and Arab communities (both domestic and abroad) for years to come.
“People like myself… who are hardcore Republicans and have been activists for years, with undoubted credentials on the Republican side, are really outraged by what is going on,” said David Ramadan, a prominent Muslim-American conservative operative and a member of the Virginia delegation to the Republican National Convention. “We believe first and foremost in the Constitution. This is not a matter of this mosque or that mosque. This is not a New York mosque issue. It is a Constitutional issue…. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
With close ties to both Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell national Republicans, Ramadan said that he and others will launch an outreach campaign in the days ahead targeting key leaders, from members of Congress on down. The hope is to bring the GOP closer in line with the position it held during the Bush years, when Islam was defined first and foremost as a religion of peace.
By all appearances, those days are gone, and are unlikely to return.
Reading the piece, which is worth checking out in full, I was reminded of similar reports earlier this year about prominent Hispanic Americans in the Republican Party who were equally incensed about the direction of their party, as GOP leaders and candidates became increasingly anti-immigrant. It seems likely that prominent African Americans in the Republican Party have been similarly concerned with the party’s race-based politicking of late.
The larger truth is that when Republicans get anxious in an election season, their first instinct is to play games with identity politics. It’s a calculated divisiveness — the GOP will lose the Muslim-American conservatives Bush brought into the party, but it’s a small price to pay for boosting turnout from the rest of the party base.
Long term, as the United States gets more diverse, this is still a losing proposition. For now, Republicans don’t seem to care.