"No Mosques!" (The Real Republican Race Issue)

08/09/2010 10:47 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let's explore an overarching cosmological Big Bang type theory that explains everything about today's' anti-mosque movement and the Republicans, the Tea Party, Sarah Palin et al.

Why now? Why so angry? Why so non-fact-based?

I can't prove my theory but as a former Republican and religious right leader, former friend to the likes of Pat Buchanan, John McCain, the late Jack Kemp etc., maybe I'm on to something here from an intuitive "inside" perspective. (I fled the Republican Party, the right and the Evangelical world in the mid-80s for reasons that I describe in my book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.

Sure there are the usual "complexities" when it comes to the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movements. But the people in these movements are one and the same. Why the overlap?

From Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck, from Palin to Sharron Angle there's really only one story: America is going brown and a lot of not-terribly-bright whites (especially traditionally conservative religious whites) don't like it.

To recap the Republican "program" (pogrom?) as its shaping up--

  • Repeal the 14 Amendment and deny citizenship to the "wrong" sort of babies born here...
  • Stop Muslims from building houses of worship...
  • Continue to lie about and defame our first black president...
  • Support unconstitutional state legislation against imigrants singling them out for arrest on the basis of race.

Good luck with all that!

The anti-Muslim Republicans may not admit this or even acknowledge it to themselves, but everything else, from gun "rights" to fearing "one world government," to stopping a local mosque from being built, to hating gays is just a footnote. The circle-the-wagons shrill panic amongst the Far Right part of the white population is motivated by a growing sense that "They" are about to "take over."

As the New York Times just reported:

While a high-profile battle rages over a mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, heated confrontations have also broken out in communities across the country where mosques are proposed for far less hallowed locations.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.

In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.

In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise -- the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.

In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.

These local skirmishes make clear that there is now widespread debate about whether the best way to uphold America's democratic values is to allow Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans, or to pull away the welcome mat from a faith seen as a singular threat.

"What's different is the heat, the volume, the level of hostility," said Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky. "It's one thing to oppose a mosque because traffic might increase, but it's different when you say these mosques are going to be nurturing terrorist bombers, that Islam is invading, that civilization is being undermined by Muslims."

Feeding the resistance is a growing cottage industry of authors and bloggers -- some of them former Muslims -- who are invited to speak at rallies, sell their books and testify in churches. Their message is that Islam is inherently violent and incompatible with America. (Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition, Sunday August 8, 20010)

Who are the feared They?

Minorities make half the babies born in the U.S. Minorities are expected to become the U.S. majority within 30 to 40 years, maybe sooner -- no matter what happens or doesn't happen regarding immigration reform.

Demographers say that this year is the "tipping point" when the number of babies born to minorities outnumbers babies born to whites. (Immigration to the U.S. has also boosted the number of Hispanic women. Minorities made up 48 percent of U.S. children born in 2008, the latest census estimates available, compared to 37 percent in 1990.)

No, I'm not just talking about overt racism. I'm also talking simple demographic FEAR.

One other thing: No, I'm not naive about the downside of extremist Islam, or, for that matter, of any fundamentalist interpretation of any religion including Christianity. Wahabist-style and/or Taliban-style "Islam" is lousy. It results in pictures of girls with their noses cut off. It is oppressive and disgusting. And precisely for that reason we need to set a better example of tolerance. What the anti-mosque people are doing is the same thing as the Saudi fundamentalists do when they refuse other religions the right to build churches, temples and such in Saudi Arabia.

The answer to oppression isn't more oppression but openness. That has been the genius of America. We didn't win the hearts of the Germans and Japanese after World War Two and help to turn them into democracies because we built internment camps in America (in a very low moment indeed) but because we offered a better vision of where humanity could go. This is how to change hearts and minds, let alone how to encourage all the many moderate Muslims here and in the rest of the world. "City set on a hill" anyone? Ring a bell?

In fact most white Americans have proved they don't vote race. According to Slate "the electorate that put Obama into office and pulled in new, vulnerable Democrats was 74 percent white, and 53 percent were older than 45. In 2006, the last midterm election and a fine year for Democrats overall, the electorate was 79 percent white, and 63 percent were 45 or older."

So I'm not talking about most whites but rather about the fired up minority of whites in the white underclass and their general sense of unease. I'll describe their unease this way: It's when people used to seeing themselves reflected in most faces they pass on the street and on TV, in Congress -- not to mention in the White House (!!!) -- no longer see themselves reflected therein.

Or as Pat-the-ever-fearful-of-the-non-white-other-Buchanan put it (in a September 1993 speech to the Christian Coalition), "[multiculturalism is] an across-the-board assault on our Anglo-American heritage." The recent anti-mosque folks are coming from the same place.

As the Times reported:

Recently, a small group of activists became alarmed about the mosque. Diana Serafin, a grandmother who lost her job in tech support this year, said she reached out to others she knew from attending Tea Party events and anti-immigration rallies. She said they read books by critics of Islam, including former Muslims like Walid Shoebat, Wafa Sultan and Manoucher Bakh. She also attended a meeting of the local chapter of ACT! for America, a Florida-based group that says its purpose is to defend Western civilization against Islam.

"As a mother and a grandmother, I worry," Ms. Serafin said. "I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that."

Everyone has their issues but all the "issues," from the anti-gay rights movement, to the anti-Obama lies ("birther" "deather" "he's a secret Muslim" etc.) are really One Issue: More and more Americans are perceived as the feared "Other" by people like Buchanan who grew up thinking of themselves as the only "Real Americans" (as Sarah Palin puts it).

Here's the good news: white, reactionary, mostly non-higher-educated America (with a few educated but equally paranoid and/or cynical "leaders" like Buchanan speaking for them) will lose this fight over mosques and the bigger fight over immigration. The Republicans will also lose elections. Far right extremists have a hard time winning.

As Frank Rich notes:

Even Lindsey Graham -- who could rightfully be anointed "This Year's Maverick" by The Times Magazine as recently as July 4 -- has joined the 14th Amendment revisionists and is slurring immigrants as baby machines who come to America to "drop a child" for nefarious purposes. The Hispanic-bashing has gotten so ugly that Michael Gerson, the former Bush speechwriter, wrote last week that Graham and McCain "may never fully recover" their reputations.

Republicans will lose for two reasons: 1) they have already lost the imagination of the younger more tolerant college-dedicated generation, and 2) they will lose demographic facts on the ground -- more babies and who has them. Nevertheless, Republican leaders are playing to the radial extreme and racist fringe On Sunday (Aug 8, 2019) House GOP Leader Rep. Boehner said on Meet The Press that he was in favor of reconsidering the 14th Amendment based on the fact that our country and hospitals are being "overrun" by immigrants! Translation: if you're brown don't come here to have babies expecting citizenship! That amendment was for whites only.

Meanwhile expect things to get uglier before the Far Right Village Idiots like Buchanan are back barking at the moon on lonely street corners where they belong rather than on TV .

There's more good news, the just-say-NO-Republicans are out of any and all ideas except to play race cards in their dirty game of stoking the fires of imagined white victimization. The Republican jumping on the anti-mosque bandwagon is just the latest race card.

Fear of the Other is really all the Republicans have to sell now; fear of Obama -- otherwise known to the "Bible-Believing" contingent as the Anti-Christ (no kidding!), fear of "Them" crossing our borders, fear of "terrorists" i.e., a very few actual terrorists and a lot of other people too in fact anyone who stands up to America anywhere for whatever reason, fear of gays, fear of blacks, fear of educated whites, fear of "non-Christians," fear of change, fear of the future, fear of city folks, fear of doing anything about any future that they didn't buy into (there is no global warming etc.,), fear of "Someone" who will take away "our guns..."

The Republicans -- the smart ones in leadership -- know the game is over in the long term and even in the short long term. They are like the last passengers on a ship heading out of a war zone that no one else will escape. They've got theirs and see no farther than the next election cycle. Theirs is a scorched earth policy. By undermining the economic recovery -- for instance -- they will accrue short term "benefits" and keep their places in Congress for another round. But their shrinking base -- demographically speaking -- isn't coming back.

Just how fatalistic and defeatist are the Republicans?

Contemplate this: most of them know that burning bridges with the Hispanic (and wider immigrant) community is doom. Yet they are doing just that! Why? Because the Republicans know that their "base" is so far Right, so wacky, so anti-government and even anti-governing, that there really is no longer term Republican future. Or put it this way: McCain is the face of the party now; old, bitter and compromising his former beliefs (about the intolerant religious right for instance) in order to hang on to power through just one more and last, election. He also reversed himself on immigration and went from a reformer arguing for the benefits of diversity to joining the anti-everyone-but-Us lynch mob.

Yet Republicans comfort themselves by saying that on culture war issues, abortion, gay rights etc., they can appeal to blacks, Hispanics etc.

Dream on!

Yes, some blacks and Hispanics are homophobic and/or anti-Muslim bigots. But the sheer nastiness of the tone of the Becks, Limbaughs, Buchanans etc., on matters of race-baiting and anti-immigrant rhetoric guarantees Republican doom.

I predict that even in this November's election Democrats will do better than expected and that in 2012 Obama will win a second term and that by the end of that second term he will be recognized as two things: the best President in the last 100 years and the most lied about and maligned figure in American politics in the last 100 years as well.

What does Obama's success in the face of adversity have to do with what I'm saying about Republican implosion? Just this: The "game" (a deadly game at that) is already WINDING DOWN. Just look at the joke quality of the Far Right candidates the Tea Party is backing and try to imagine them actually leading! (Speaking of leading check this out on Huffington Post "Sharron Angle: Make Gay Adoption Illegal, Allow Clergy To Endorse Candidates From Pulpit" as just one example of Republican suicide.)

In November when the Republicans fail to take the House and the Democrats keep the Senate too, the Far Right dream will shatter. From then on the Republicans will be a minority party for the foreseeable future. The only way this might not happen - this next election - will be if Democrats and Indy progressive voters - keep playing their own dumb shoot-yourself-in-the-foot game of disrespecting Obama, and thereby generating apathy in heretofore progressive ranks. As Frank Rich notes "Democrats might instead start playing the hand they've been dealt. Elections, the cliché goes, are about the future, not the past. At the very least they're about the present. It's time voters were told just how far right the G.O.P. has lurched "

But even if the Democrats suffer bad losses in November it won't matter in the longer term. The irony is that Far Right white paranoia about being a victimized minority is about to become a self-inflicted reality as an inclusive, tolerant, better, and diverse country -- that will include many happy and enlightened white people too -- emerges from the paranoid dream that overtook America in reaction to the election of our first black president.

As I said, America is going brown and a lot of not-terribly-bright whites don't like it. And that explains a lot.