Up front I will admit to being a fan of Jonah Goldberg. “Conservatives in the Mist” is a staple reference in my writing and I don’t let the fact that his mother banned me from commenting or her site affect the respect that I have for his writing and insights. Having said that, I think that he misses the point in his latest Thoughts on a Dumb Conversation.
In Goldberg’s view the entire discussion on Islam is dumb and it was brought on by the fact that two inexperienced people, Trump and then Carson, made terrible decisions. He thinks Trump should have made an effort to defend Obama when the nutball in Rochester, NH, waxed poetic on Obama’s religion and nationality. This, he thinks has created a news cycle where the emphasis is on the comments rather than more friendly territory. He believes Carson has lost an advantage with his comments about the incompatibility of Islam with the Constitution.
As I’ve already written (and others as well), the idea that Trump… or any candidate… should get into an argument with a random person at a campaign rally in beyond silly. Once the guy opened his mouth his comment was going to be the story, Trump did the best he could with a bad situation. As Rick Santorum said (it seems it is Santorum’s fate to be a Cassandra), no one needs to defend Obama because the media will jump to the job. The idea that Trump lost the votes of anyone inclined to vote for him by ignoring the man’s statement is ludicrous.
Having been in the media this long, I found it more than a little pollyannish of him to think that MSNBC and the like would let the matter in New Hampshire drop just because Trump defended Obama and slapped the miraculously still-anonymous guy down. Not going to happen. The story was still going to be “GOP thinks Obama is a Muslim What Do You [fill in candidate name here] Think About Seeking the Votes of These Cretins?”
Ben Carson did not lose the exchange. The failure of GOP politicians to acknowledge the threat that we are facing is not some rogue, heretical sect of Islam but rather Islam as it is practiced by conservatively a third of the Muslims on earth has been a source of irritation with the GOP base since 2003. We were willing to give it a chance but by 2006 it was damned obvious what the situation was and despite what a lot of well meaning guys on our side said, it was equally obvious that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with American values. See the case of the pastors in Dearborn, for example. To the contrary, a lot of evidence indicates that Carson gained support based on speaking a rather self-evident truth.
The intensifying political fallout is a distraction at least as the retired neurosurgeon tries to capitalize on recent momentum in the unruly GOP field. But it also highlights a sentiment among voters in both parties who agree with Carson’s reluctance to elect a Muslim to the nation’s highest office.
Carson’s campaign reported strong fundraising and more than 100,000 new Facebook friends in the 24 hours after he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
His campaign manager Barry Bennett told The Associated Press on Monday: “While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20.”
“People in Iowa particularly, are like, ‘Yeah! We’re not going to vote for a Muslim either,” Bennett said. “I don’t mind the hubbub. It’s not hurting us, that’s for sure.”
The U.S. Muslim population is growing, according to a May survey by the Pew Research Centre, which found the group represented just under 1 per cent of the U.S. population.
A June Gallup poll found that 54 per cent of Republicans would not vote for a well-qualified Muslim nominee from their own party; 39 per cent of independents and 27 per cent of Democrats said the same.
Nineteen states introduced legislation in 2015 to restrict the use of foreign law in state courts, Republican-backed steps largely designed to block the influence of Sharia — the legal framework that regulates many aspects of life based on the Qur’an and Islamic tradition in some Muslim countries. Nine states have already implemented such laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While a lot of political observers want a more cerebral debate, the fact is that this election will not be about wonkish discussions on GDP and how to best manage American decline. The electorate is angry at the status quo and they are furious at the clique that got us in this position and the media that acted as their protector. This election is increasingly becoming one in which the guy willing to flip off the media is the guy who prospers. The voters, in particular GOP voters, are not in the mood for candidates who are hedging and indulging in nuance. Fiorina’s perceived win in the last debate rests on her attack on Planned Parenthood and her refusal to back down. She, Carson and Trump are showing that at long last some GOP candidates are getting a clue on how to deal with the media and so long as their views are within the mainstream of the GOP they aren’t going to suffer for having stood their ground.