Just What Trump Was Waiting For

From New York Magazine by Jonathan Chait:

“Rather than focus the scope of government targets, Trump proposes to widen it.

This idea undergirds his proposal to ban all Muslim immigrants and refugees. It also animates his lies that Muslim-Americans celebrated the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, and that Muslim-Americans in San Bernardino knew about the impending attack last summer but did nothing to stop it. It is the same thread that allows him to claim vindication in the Orlando massacre for his policies, which putatively would target only immigrants, even though the Orlando attack was carried out by a native-born U.S. citizen. Trump has defended his ban on Muslim refugees not merely as a tool to prevent terrorists from infiltrating the border disguised as refugees, but on the grounds that the entire Muslim population, peaceful and radical alike, is the breeding ground for a fifth column. There is “no way to screen [refugees], pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.”

Extending his rationale to the second generation is an important and chilling expansion of Trump’s doctrine. He proposes to treat all Muslims as a suspect class of probable enemies. What Trump calls “political correctness” is simply the presumption that Muslims are mostly peaceful and, in the absence of evidence of hostile intent, have a right to equal treatment. As with most of his policies, Trump has left the details of his plan vague, but its overall contours are clear enough. The plan is to persecute Muslims.

There are two broad grounds for objection to Trump’s plan. First, there is the moral objection against discriminating against citizens on the basis of their religion and nationality. Trump would subject the vast majority of innocent Muslims to exclusion and discrimination in order to stop the dangerous minority. It is worth considering the conservative approach to this trade-off in contrast to its approach to gun control. Terrorists have increasingly turned to gun violence as their primary tool of mass murder. Currently, a person on the terrorism watch list is unable to purchase a seat on a plane, but they can buy an assault rifle. It would be possible to at least limit their access to dangerous weapons by strengthening gun laws. But Trump and his entire party reject any such measures out of hand. “They will try to exploit this terror attack to undermine the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding Americans,” wrote Cruz. Any imposition at all upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners is intolerable, while impositions upon the rights of law-abiding Muslims are fervently desired. The right’s calculation of which group should be inconvenienced, and to what degree, is governed by identity politics rather than strategy.

Then there is the practical objection: Since radical Islamists recruit allies by presenting the conflict as a division between Muslims and the West, any rhetoric that plays into the war-of-civilizations narrative aids their cause. What’s more, treating the Muslim community as aliens or with suspicion increases the number of radicals, and decreases the number of allies who will help identify extremists. This was precisely the strategy that inspired the Bush administration to carefully and extensively distinguish between Islam and the ideology of the terrorists who claimed to represent it. Six days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush told the world, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” In succeeding years, Bush repeated this message over and over. Obama has followed the same strategy, identifying terrorists as “thugs and killers,” and asserting, “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The post-Bush-doctrine Republican Party is no longer guided by an idealistic and impractical vision for defeating radical Islam. All it has left is a residue of fear and nationalism, ripe for manipulation by a demagogue. The logic of Trump’s conquest of the Republican Party is most glaringly obvious when it is splayed against the backdrop of the terrorist threat. He has taken control of an empty vessel and steered it toward its only possible course.”

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5 thoughts on “Just What Trump Was Waiting For

  1. Only a truly sick person could change this tragedy into a me me me opportunity.
    The man has no soul. Perhaps a brain scan should be required of anyone running for office. No more early Alzheimer’s please.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s frightening to think that Republicans have such short memories they’ve forgotten what a Republican president said. Then again they’re so myopic they think there are “Muslim neighborhoods” that could and should be subject to strict surveillance.

    But if I may go off on a bit of a tangent while terrorism and guns are an important part of this discussion it’s also important to keep in mind that Mateen specifically chose a place where LGBT people gather. I don’t think it was Chait’s intention to ignore that, or yours, but some politicians and media figures have tried to downplay the fact that LGBT people were targeted. It’s pretty disgraceful, especially considering that it’s some of the same politicians with a history of supporting legislation to deny the rights of LGBT people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right. That was not addressed in this excerpt from a longer article about how Trump has not hijacked orthodox conservatism but intensified it, given it a more explicit policy objective, and brought its ideas closer to their logical conclusion. In Trump’s “speech” today, though, he said the attack was “an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want and express their identity.” I have not heard ANY GOP congresscritters say that yet. I suppose it would stick in their craws to do so.

      Liked by 1 person

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