The Daily Beast published a story on 29 September called GOP’s 2016 Festival of Hate: It’s Already the Most Racist Presidential Campaign Ever by Dean Obeidallah. He says, “It appears that the GOP has traded in its dog whistle for a bullhorn when it comes to bigotry in the 2016 race for president. It’s as if the Republican presidential candidates are regressing to a time long gone.” He outlined the history of candidates using racism to win votes in US presidential elections in the 20th century, then goes into a series of examples of how GOP candidates are doing it again in the current campaign.
Some of the examples he noted were:
- “Trump has plagiarized Nixon’s practice of appealing to the ‘silent majority’ (white people) and promising ‘law and order;'”
- Jeb Bush saying over the weekend that, “Democrats lure black people to support them with the promise of ‘free stuff;'”
- the vilification of immigrants such as Trump’s release of ” … a Latino version of Bush’s Willie Horton ad which featured images of three scary-looking Latino men who had committed crimes;” and how “… on the campaign trail he has continued telling crowds that ‘illegals’ had ‘raped, sodomized, tortured and killed’ American women;”
- the opposition to the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage by most candidates, and the subsequent vilification of LGBT people;
- how “Ted Cruz has unequivocally stoked the flames of hate versus the LGBT community with his recent remarks that the gay activists are waging a ‘jihad’ against ‘people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.'”
And then there’s Ben Carson, who said to Chuck Todd in an interview on Meet the Press on 20 September, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” (See below for a transcript of that part of the interview.)
When Ben Carson made those remarks there was naturally significant controversy. It didn’t hurt him with GOP primary voters of course – in fact since then he’s risen in the polls so much that he’s now in a statistical dead heat with Donald Trump.
The back and forth went on much as one would expect. Carson has since been saying that he would be fine with a Muslim in the White House as long as they put the constitution before their religion, and that’s what he meant all along, and anyone who thinks otherwise wasn’t listening properly. (Yes, he actually said that.)
The day after Carson made his initial remark, Nihad Awad, founder of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) made the following statement:
Not long ago, some people thought that a Catholic cannot he president, an African-American cannot be a president; they were wrong then, they are wrong now. … We ask Mr Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race because he is unfit to lead, because his views are inconsistent with the United States Constitution.
Given Carson’s comments, that’s a perfectly reasonable statement to make. No one expects it to happen of course, but for a Muslim organisation to speak out against what Carson said is a normal reaction. Now a week later (29 September) on Fox News’s the Kelly File they’ve announced a follow-up to that story – a new angle. Megyn Kelly said:
In a Kelly File follow-up we did some digging into the rules for tax-exempt organisations like CAIR when they decide to get involved in politics. The IRS rules specifically provide that “… section 501(c)(3) organizations like CAIR are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign …” whether it be “… on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
Kelly says they have asked CAIR for a response, but have not had one.
Ben Carson appeared on the show to discuss the issue though. In the previous segment, Megyn Kelly had been discussing the Daily Beast article above – the contention that this was the most racist campaign in history – with Fox News senior political commentator Brit Hume. He dismissed the accusation:
That statement is so out there that it borders on hysterical. … I mean, it’s just, you know, it’s preposterous.
It was from that discussion that Kelly went into the conversation with Carson.
KELLY: So, maybe CAIR is in trouble. You’ve already said you won’t be dropping out of the race. But let’s pick up with you where I left it with Brit which is this accusation that already the 2016 race is the most racist campaign for president that we’ve seen in history. Your thoughts on that?
CARSON: Well, isn’t that what the leftists always do when they can’t find anything else to talk about? They drop back to racism. That’s their standard defense. And it’s so silly when you stop and think about it. You know, what I’ve talked about is about a system of living, which Islam is. It has nothing do with race. You know, there are people of, lots of different races who embrace that. And as I’ve said before, it really doesn’t matter what a person’s religion is, if in fact, they’re willing to accept the American standards, American principles, American values and to subjugate their beliefs to our constitution. Then, you know, that’s very acceptable.
KELLY: What do you make of our own Charles Krauthammer —
CARSON: I don’t know anything racist about that.
KELLY: Our own Charles Krauthammer came out and took some issue with that defense of your position saying, all right. He said, the constitution doesn’t just tell you what you’re not allowed to do. It also suggests what you shouldn’t want to do. And he suggested, look, a major purpose of the constitution is to discourage and delegitimize this kind of authoritarian thinking like you put forward. What do you think of that?
CARSON: Well, I think Charles Krauthammer usually has pretty solid information. And has things to say that are worthwhile. I think he may be a little off base there. And there is nothing that I’ve said that is in any way contradicting our constitution. In fact, I have a book coming out next week about the constitution that really breaks it down. And I hope that Dr. Krauthammer will read that.
KELLY: … Let me talk to you about the polls which you just referenced. The latest one, Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows you now, in a virtual dead heat with Donald Trump, for front-runner status, he’s at 21 percent, you are at 20. First, let me ask you as some journalists had proposed last week. Do you believe that Donald Trump has peaked?
CARSON: I suspect that he’s probably getting close, but who knows. I mean, we’re in uncharted territory. We’ve never had anything like this with all of this insurgent outsiders doing so well. Because it resonates with the people. And it really kind of depends on whether he puts — continues to put material out that people resonate with and doesn’t, you know, become too thin-skinned and start attacking people over everything.
KELLY: Why do you think you’ve gone up as you have?
CARSON: I’ve gone up a lot because I’ve been out there talking. And people have an opportunity to actually hear what I’m saying. And also because I think the American people have caught on to the media, and recognize that these guys have their own agenda. They’re not really out there to do what they were supposed to do. They’re the only business that’s protected by our constitution because they’re supposed to be on the side of the people. But the people are recognizing that they’re not on the side of people, they have their own agendas. So they’re not listening to them and they’re not listening to the pundits, who, of course, from the beginning, have been wrong about everything they said about me. It seems like they’ll get tired of being wrong at some point. (Carson laughs.)
(Transcript from Fox News. I reviewed it against my own recording of the show, and there were some minor errors, which I have corrected.)
The main problem I have here is with Fox News attacking CAIR for calling for Carson to resign from the race and suggesting that their tax-exempt status should be taken away because of this. Seriously? When was the last time any news organisation in the United States called for a Christian organisation to have their tax-exempt status stripped for interfering in politics in a partisan way?
Liberty Counsel Action, for example, is tax-exempt in exactly the same way as CAIR, that is, under Section 501(3)(c). According to Wikipedia they are a:
… law firm and ministry that specializes in Evangelical Christian Litigation. … Liberty Counsel supports barring people from the military on the basis of homosexual activity. Liberty Counsel opposes efforts to prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers. The organization further opposes the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, or similar provisions to hate crimes legislation. Liberty Counsel also devotes its time to fighting against same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by gay people. Liberty Counsel has said that its primary goal is to influence policy.
Liberty Counsel Action are also the attorneys of Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
If they’re not interfering in politics, I don’t know who is. I would go so far as to call them a hate group themselves. I have never heard anyone mention that Liberty Counsel Action should lose their tax-exempt status, even though their stated “primary goal is to influence policy.”
Churches aren’t supposed to get involved in politics either, but Republican candidates nearly all go begging to senior evangelical leaders to get their endorsement for their campaigns.
In fact the Republican party has been all but taken over by the Christian right, and woe betide any candidate who ignores them. They do so at their peril. Most of the candidates attended the Tenth Annual Values Voter Summit last week. Even Donald Trump was there, waving the Bible his mother gave him and his confirmation photograph. He told them he was a good man. How could they know this? Because he believed in the Bible.
The Values Voter Summit is organised by the Family Research Council, another tax-exempt organisation (501(c)(4)), which, quite rightly in my opinion, the Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes as a hate group. They lobby against same-sex marriage, abortion, divorce, LGBT adoption, embryonic stem-cell research and pornography. (In recent years they’ve set up in New Zealand too, with Bob McCroskie as their leader. They’re behind this month’s first ever banning of a book in New Zealand since the current legislation was enacted in 1993.) The organisation of a conference specifically for candidates to attend and tout their conservative credentials is surely interfering in the political process to a greater extent than CAIR making a statement, but no one is calling for their tax-exempt status to be pulled. In fact, I saw clips of many of the speeches made by the candidates on the Kelly File itself.
All the Republican candidates have gone out of their way to display their Christian credentials, and that wins them supporters. Abusing
people from religions other than Christianity or no religion, either directly or indirectly, is standard practice. Only 58% of Americans would consider voting for a Muslim according to a Gallup survey in 2012. The same survey shows that amongst Republican voters, that figure is only 48%.
I guess it’s OK to denigrate a group of people if most of those whose votes you want agree with you.
Partial transcript of interview between Ben Carson and Chuck Todd
CHUCK TODD: Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what’s been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim. Let me ask you the question this way: Should a President’s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?
DR. BEN CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.
CHUCK TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?
DR. BEN CARSON: No, I don’t, I do not.
CHUCK TODD: So you–
DR. BEN CARSON: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
CHUCK TODD: And would you ever consider voting for a Muslim for Congress?
DR. BEN CARSON: Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know. And, you know, if there’s somebody who’s of any faith, but they say things, and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed, and bring peace and harmony, then I’m with them.
CHUCK TODD: And I take it you believe the president was born in the United States and is a Christian?
DR. BEN CARSON: I believe that he is. I have no reason to doubt what he says.
(Transcript source: Real Clear Politics)