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)
Well, I’m just glad to see Carson get behind marriage equality, as he has to because he can’t put his religion ahead of the Constitution, right?
His election material goes on about “one nation under God” etc. He believes the US is a Christian nation, and SCOTUS is wrong, so their decision doesn’t count on this one. Huckabee takes a similar position.
My understanding of the 501 tax exempt status is that it is not always illegal to promote or at least publish on policy, as opposed to specific campaigns.
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” (Wikipedia)
I think it is not enforced very well, and of course we know the exemption for churches is routinely violated and almost never prosecuted.
CAIR in the sited instance is calling for the resignation of a specific candidate, which is pretty clearly a violation.
Sam Harris has a nice discussion of the Carson issue and a related take-down of Obeidallah.
I checked the IRS site to make sure it was being quoted correctly, and it was. I also found some other guidance about applying the law that wasn’t quite so strict, and I can’t find it again, which is very frustrating. So I don’t know whether the problem is unclear law, or that it’s not being enforced.
Liberty Counsel says churches are exempt under the constitution just because they’re churches.
I’m pleased to see Harris’s take-down of Obeidallah. His kind of rhetoric never helps the situation, and gives the right-wing an excuse for their attitude. Brit Hume, who normally annoys me quite a lot, actually had some good stuff to say in his conversation with Megyn Kelly about the article.
CAIR’s call for resignation might be a clear violation, but how many times, for example, have Christian organisations called for the resignation of a politician over the abortion issue and no-one ever calls for them to lose their tax-free status. Instead, a whole lot of people get behind them. It’s the hypocrisy I have a problem with.
“churches are exempt under the constitution”
Yes! I should have said that in my comment.
I had a couple of paragraphs in the post about the churches interference, but I ended up deleting them. I also deleted quite a lot about what Hume/Kelly said about the ‘Daily Beast’ article. Their discussion was interesting. I probably left in too much of that article in the end, because it subsequently had little balancing it and so the focus wasn’t so much on what I was actually writing about.
Good one Heather! A lot of meaty issues packed into this post and its links.
I’m coming to the conclusion that the only thing twitter is good for is hurling insults at people. It is distressing, and boring at the same time, how personal these discussions get and how little substance they contain. I thought Obeidallah’s Daily Beast article was quite reasonable if not particularly revelatory. He just reviewed well-known facts about Republican racist history and then assembled some of the racist comments coming from the 2016 candidates.
I also think too much has been made of Carson’s statement that he doesn’t think we should elect a Muslim as President. I don’t find that hateful in the same way as Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, or many other statements about Muslims we hear from many quarters, including new atheists. I agree with Harris, that Carson’s denial of science is more of a concern than any signs of religious bigotry.
Harris’ blog post, though, is primarily about his personal animus against Obeidallah and others who have opposed him (Affleck, Aslan) and childish claims of who took-down whom. For substance he trots out evidence that homosexuality is punishable by death in the hadiths if not in the Quran. Duh. And where was homosexuality not punishable by death in the seventh century? And has he not read the bible? Also more tendentious discussion of whether female genital mutilation is a distinctively muslim crime or not. Far from taking down anyone, Harris comes off as exceedingly defensive, complaining about how his reputation has suffered, while accusing his opponents of being “smirking liars”, “shamefully dishonest” displaying a “total lack of moral and intellectual seriousness”, and “There appears to be no limit to how low the people who hurl these charges of bigotry will sink.” I don’t doubt that Harris’ opponents have said equally nasty things about him, but I find this kind of ranting, animated by personal grievances, to be worse than useless in trying to understand what is going on in the world.
I’d like to say more on the ubiquity of bias and its destructive influence on all attempts at rationality, but for now I’ll close by opining that all tax exemptions, except for expenditures directly used for charitable purposes, should be repealed.
The main problem with Carson’s statement is his idea of what the constitution is and isn’t. He’s one of those who thinks it protects Christians who want to impose their religion on others. That is not the kind of person who should be president. He also should have been capable of answering the question a whole lot better than he did, which tells me (again!) that he does not think to his intellectual capacity when it comes to religion.
Trumps comments are on the surface far more hateful, but if he ever got into office, the majority probably wouldn’t be carried out. In fact he’d probably become the most hated president in history because reality would make him act much differently than he promised to in his campaign. Carson comes across nice, but is far, far more dangerous, and, I think, extremely deluded. And he’s at least as arrogant about his own ability as Trump. In fact maybe more so – Trump talks about picking the right people for the job while Carson clearly considers himself the smartest person wherever he goes. He’s yet to work out that in hallways of power, there are plenty of people as smart as he is.
I agree completely, Heather. Both Trump and Carson reveal just how unhinged the right wing electorate has become. But the corporate leadership want someone they can control. It seemed that Bush was the anointed one, but he’s hitting sour notes. I’m betting Rubio starts getting talked up a lot more.
If Bush doesn’t pick up in the polls, I think the GOP establishment will transfer their allegiance to Kasich. I see Fiorina as Bush’s VP, but Rubio as Kasich’s VP.
Yay, I can come to Sam’s defense for a change. What you’re seeing is the result of a very frustrated man tearing his hair out. Sam never thought he’d be writing such blogs and laments having to waste time to do so. He is so defensive because he feels there is no other choice, seeing how easy it is to be demonised by someone willing to lie. That this happens so often on the left is about the only thing that ever makes me want to distance myself from progressives. You may not like the examples he gave (I have no problems with them), but Sam is completely correct that people like Obeidallah refuse to admit any links between such practices and Islam but prefer to slander him with “bigot” instead. There’s plenty enough to challenge Sam about without making shit up.
What is the lie? I watched the video between the two, and though I couldn’t understand every word, when they were both talking at once, but I didn’t see that Obeidallah said anything outrageous about Harris. If you are going to say controversial things you have to expect push back. Can you expect to single out a religion that’s followed by well over a billion people as “the mother lode of bad ideas” and not expect to be called a bigot at the very least. People who live in glass houses…
Nope, push back is one thing, but calling someone a racist is to shut them down completely, to say that they are not speaking with reason and therefore do not need to be listened to. So you better be right if you say it. Sam distinguishes all the time the difference between criticising ideas as opposed to individuals, which we absolutely must be able to do. How else can an atheist have a conversation with a non-atheist otherwise? As I’ve watched Sam so closely for long enough now to know where he *is* being irrational (in my opinion regarding the political causes of terrorism), I can also assure you he is no bigot.
Even Reza Aslan has admitted he doesn’t think Sam is a racist. I’ve no problems with a lot of what Obeidallah said, but on this point he is either being very sloppy or doesn’t want to deal with Sam’s valid criticisms of Islam. The later was certainly apparent at least in so far as he tried to deny that death for homosexuality was part of Islamic dogma.
Yet Stephen Knight (Godless Spellchecker) and Maajid Nawaaz are happy to go around smearing Nathan Lean and Murtaza Hussain as racists respectively…
Got some links? Not sure I know Hussain. I’m aware of the hatchet job Lean did on Harris last year, but not the others’ criticism of Lean.
Here’s another argument starting up today between Sam Harris and Steve Zara (I don’t know who he is). I think Harris’s response is hilarious. https://twitter.com/SamHarrisOrg/status/650122636916326400?t=1&cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjcw%3D%3D&sig=2c8ff357469027d44f52bb2a0dd640a0ee82618e&al=1&refsrc=email&iid=58452d39be264d57b15c66ebd28125da&autoactions=1443837181&uid=872343469&nid=244+1489
Seems like Zara is just having a bit of fun.
Stephen Knight accusing Nathan Lean of being a racist by saying that Nathan Lean thinks “that a brown-skinned Muslim critical of Islamism can’t possibly be thinking for themselves, but must be a puppet of the evil (and smarter) white man.”
Can’t find the link to the Nawaaz and Murtaza Hussain one, it is quite possible Nawaaz didn’t accuse of him being a racist and I wrongly thought he was suggesting that, so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt unless I can find evidence that he did accuse him of being racist.
Yea, I’d be surprised if Nawaaz had done that from what I’ve seen of him.
As for Knight, I don’t think this example is nearly as bad as the race card that gets played on Harris. Harris wants to criticise Islamic dogma as a set of ideas and goes out of his way to make it not about the race of the people who adhere to Islam. Despite this, he gets called racist by people who offer no real rationale for doing so, but just assume that the correlation that most Muslims are non-white means that criticism of Islam=racism.
Knight notes that without even reading the book, Lean disses Nawaaz as a white person’s (Harris) lapdog. So Lean has quite specifically brought race into it already. At minimum, what he said is outrageous, and Knight proposes that it is “a form of anti-Muslim bigotry” and offers a case as to why.
I don’t find his case convincing. I would say Lean is again just trying to avoid discussing the specifics of Islam, and Knight should have focussed on that. So technically I guess you are right, though I don’t find the two examples very comparable.
Heather, excellent analysis as usual.
Apparently you were quoting from Obeidallah when you wrote, “the vilification of immigrants such as Jeb Bush saying over the weekend that, “Democrats lure black people to support them with the promise of ‘free stuff;’”.”
I think Obei’s got the wrong target, here; the vilification sounds to me to be of blacks, not immigrants.
And just a little nit…you wrote, “When Ben Carson made those remarks there was naturally significant controversy. It didn’t hurt him in the GOP primary of course…”
As I’m sure you know, we won’t have our first official presidential primary till February (and even at that, they will seem interminable).
Thanks Diane – fixed. I’d missed a word with the primary thing, and the “vilification of immigrants” bit was my fault too. By the time it comes to the final edit I’m so tired, I always miss things. I need someone else to check things before I post them!
The hardest person to proofread is yourself. I’m quite versed in that area… 🙂
Ken: “calling someone a racist is to shut them down completely, to say that they are not speaking with reason and therefore do not need to be listened to.”
I’m sure you know the “conversation” between Harris and Obeidallah, better than I, Ken, and I don’t doubt that you are right. I’ll just say that in what I’ve read and listened to, it was Harris who hurled most of the insults such as “smirking liar”, “shamefully dishonest” displaying a “total lack of moral and intellectual seriousness”. Isn’t that saying “that they are not speaking with reason and therefore do not need to be listened to.” Is that less of an insult than for Obeidallah to call Harris a bigot? Why can’t they both make their arguments without resorting to personal insults?
A bigot is “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions”. Well, isn’t Harris pretty intolerant of those who believe in Islam? I know there is a lot of splitting hairs between (to use a religious term) hating the sin and not the sinner, but in practice it often amounts to the same thing.
We are all biased in favor or against a whole variety of things and people. We may be scientists wedded to evidence as the only basis of truth. We may be philosophers saying true assertions can only be arrived at by reason and logic. Enlightened people subscribe to both propositions. But in forming our opinions and directing our actions, aren’t evidence and reason at best constraining factors on our conclusions?
Biases are the result of how our unconscious brain organizes information. It allows for quick decisions on “fight” or “flight” or “embrace”. Bias results from pleasant or unpleasant personal experiences. Clearly H and O have negative personal biases against one another. Bias also results from cultural conditioning. H and O have opposite biases regarding Islam because they were raised differently, in different traditions.
We can’t eliminate these biases. In experimental studies we can try to control for them. In logic, we can explicitly address them and try to counter them. But when scientists and philosophers step outside of controlled investigations, their opinions are likely to be as biased as the next persons. People who think they are being rational are usually rationalizing. People who insult others for their biases are usually covering their own.
I have great respect for the New Atheists in exposing religion to evidentiary and rational criticism. When they go beyond that, to claim that religion is the cause of this or that, or that one religion is “the mother of bad ideas”, they fail to separate their biases from their reason. It is then just opinion entitled to no special deference due to the author’s expertise. When does bias become bigotry? Hard to draw the line.
“I’m sure you know the “conversation” between Harris and Obeidallah, better than I, Ken, and I don’t doubt that you are right.”
I’d never heard of Obeidallah before that clip, so know only as much as you do about it.
“I’ll just say that in what I’ve read and listened to, it was Harris who hurled most of the insults such as “smirking liar”, “shamefully dishonest” displaying a “total lack of moral and intellectual seriousness”….Why can’t they both make their arguments without resorting to personal insults?”
Agreed. You could tell it wasn’t going to go well when it was revealed at the beginning that Obeidallah had called Sam a racist on twitter and immediately offered to do so again on tv. Sam is rarely the first to take the gloves off.
“Isn’t that saying “that they are not speaking with reason and therefore do not need to be listened to.”
“Is that less of an insult than for Obeidallah to call Harris a bigot?”
Only if it also isn’t true.
“A bigot is “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions”.”
With that definition, you could think a charge of racism wasn’t even part of the issue, yet racism is the entire issue here.
“Well, isn’t Harris pretty intolerant of those who believe in Islam? I know there is a lot of splitting hairs between (to use a religious term) hating the sin and not the sinner, but in practice it often amounts to the same thing.”
I don’t think so, but then I don’t think it amounts to the same thing.
I don’t disagree with too much of what you say about bias, except to say this goes beyond biases and that we admit to having biases doesn’t release us from needing to use evidence and reason when arguing – in fact the existence of biases is a big reason we need to show evidence and reason to support our positions, as you seem to understand. You shouldn’t be able to get away with saying anything at all just by rationalising it away as just a bias.
“I have great respect for the New Atheists in exposing religion to evidentiary and rational criticism. When they go beyond that, to claim that religion is the cause of this or that, or that one religion is “the mother of bad ideas”, they fail to separate their biases from their reason. It is then just opinion entitled to no special deference due to the author’s expertise. When does bias become bigotry? Hard to draw the line.”
I don’t think the line is always that hard to draw and this is one of the cases that it isn’t. And if it makes any difference, Sam retracted his line that “Islam is the mother load of bad ideas”. He felt he overstated it, which of course doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still think it one source of some pretty bad ideas.