I spoke this morning on the Michael Patriek Shiels Show about the “camel jockeys” comment made by Michigan GOP National Committeeman Dave Agema.
Another GOP abortion bill, another squandered moment
BY DAWUD WALIDRepublican national leadership still has not learned its lesson from last year’s defeat in pushing social legislation in Congress.
This week, the House is to vote on pro-life legislation that will ban abortions past the 20 week mark. Though the bill may make it out of the House, it does not have a chance before the Senate – much less a presidential veto if it did.
To be clear, I’m not in favor of abortions past the 20 week mark – except in where women face serious health problems (including potential death). I am, however, in favor of bi-partisan legislation that can fix the socio-economic mess that our country faces at this crucial moment. The votes simply are not there on this issue, which gives the appearance that the GOP is blowing smoke on an unwinnable issue.
Less than one week ago, a Gallup poll found that Congress’ approval rating is at an all-time low – only 10 percent of Americans have confidence in the House and Senate. Instead of seizing the moment and focusing on the economy, national deficits, and the erosion of civil liberties, Republican legislators are making the ill-advised move to jump deeper into culture war politics.
If the GOP does not re-focus, they will continue to lose even more support during the 2014 election cycle. Stop the grandstanding, and submit legislation that has a chance of actually passing to improve our country.
APR 2, 2013, 6:00 PM
No place in GOP for divisive voices like Agema
BY DAWUD WALID
Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema is up to his old hijinks of making divisive comments – further tainting Michigan’s GOP.
Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against gay marriage, Agema posted an article on Facebook , which refers to homosexuality as a part of a “filthy lifestyle.” In wake of this latest fiasco he still has self-identified Republicans who continue to cheer him.
It’s mind-boggling that Agema was even voted in as National Committeeman by state Republicans last year given his record for making fringe statements – and supporting divisive legislation while serving as a state rep.
This is the same guy who stated that Dearborn is infested with “sleeper cells” and introduced a frivolous anti-Muslim bill into the state legislature. He even pals around with – and has sponsored talks for – charlatan ex-terrorist Kamal Saleem (aka Khodor Shami), who gets paid to tell you how less than two percent of the population is going to secretly take over America. He’s also, in birther-esque fashion, suggested that President Obama may be a secret Muslim.
Agema supported Arizona-type immigration enforcement legislation that would have opened the door to racial profiling in Michigan by local law enforcement. Of course, he did not care that this alienated the state’s Arab and Latino communities as well as civil libertarians of other ethnic groups. He further endorsed making changes to the 14th Amendment – which grants birthright citizenship to all born in America – to wanting to make Michigan an “English-only” state.
I’m glad to see some within the Michigan GOP speaking up against Agema’s divisive rhetoric. The problem, however, is that there is still too much tolerance for such intolerance among Michigan Republicans – from many precinct captains to the governor’s office.
I have no problem when officials and elected representatives from any party voice their concerns from a policy perspective about any issue be it immigration reform or gay marriage. I hold strong positions for and against these and other issues. The issue becomes when discussion of public policy issues drifts away from civil discourse into the realm of name calling to zaniness.
Unfortunately for the GOP, they continue to be associated with the latter due to boorish talk from the likes of fringes like Agema. Part of the solution to this problem is that Agema types must be purged from any semblance of representing the party’s leadership or voice.
Comprehensive immigration reform will most likely pass in Congress this year due to the political reality facing the GOP in presidential politics.
America is quickly becoming a browner nation, and GOP national leadership knows that it can never win a presidency again by alienating people of color, save gerrymandering and voter suppression on steroids.
Given that Latinos are the largest immigrant demographic nationwide, Republicans are casting their bets that championing immigration reform will make them appear less xenophobic. Thus, they hope to win substantially more brown votes in 2016. There are few assumptions, however, in this political calculation.
Such a calculation assumes that this one issue will trump other concerns that many Latinos have with the GOP’s platform on education funding, gun (non)control and reproductive rights. Latinos are far from a monolithic in their voting concerns nor are they one issue voters.
The immigration reform overture also assumes that Latinos will ignore racist and xenophobic rhetoric that has come overtly but more often subtly from the GOP, which targets other minorities. I’m not sure how many Latinos will buy that there has been fundamental change in a party whose national leadership was mum while making boogeymen out of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians during the whole anti-sharia bill movement that has swept across America in the past two years.
The GOP needs a complete tone recalibration from its posture since 9/11 if it hopes to slowly convince people of color that they are indeed an inclusive party. Having a Latino face here and a Black face there in the party doesn’t equal inclusion for the masses. This means Republicans should have zero tolerance for birtherism, anti-Muslim fear-mongering and code language which alienates Black Americans if they indeed wish to look more inclusive, a la New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The tone around comprehensive immigration reform thus far has been civil. Will the GOP continue this for the next three years to win back Latinos and other people of color at the polls is the real question.
Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism are alive and well in the GOP as the presidential primaries take place today in Alabama and Mississippi.
Let’s look at the facts:
Only twelve percent of GOP voters in Mississippi think that President Obama is a Christian, and a shocking three out of ten GOP voters in Mississippi want interracial marriage to be ILLEGAL while another two out of ten aren’t sure if interracial marriage should be legal. In other words, only half of Mississippi GOP voters are comfortable with interracial marriages.
National Public Radio (NPR) had a piece this morning titled, “Romney’s Rivals Try To Woo Southerners,” which in part covered voters reactions to a discussion with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich yesterday in Alabama.
Regarding how entrenched Islamophobia is within the GOP in Alabama, one misguided soul named Judy Sellers made a statement related to President Obama, “I really don’t think that a nation that falls on Muslim leadership, potentially, is going to be a nation that’s going to survive.”
Not to mention last night that birthers are still questioning if Obama was even born in America.
Notice that many Islamophobes such as Pamela Geller are also birthers, and many of these Islamphobes identify with the politics of the GOP.
Given that many of the bigots within the GOP don’t want to be seen as anti-Black given that it’s not politically correct to be overtly anti-Black (just make Reagan-esque comments like “food stamp president”), using Islamophobia and xenophobia have a level of socio-political tolerance in America. It’s a strategy that Islamophobes have used for the last four years such as with the anti-Muslim movie “Obession” to rally the GOP voters against Obama.
As far as the reflection of anti-Black sentiments and the interracial marriage issue, which more overtly reflects the racist mindset still held by many Whites in the Deep South, they attempt to cover their racism with saying that they aren’t anti-Black but have concerns for the children of such marriages being confused about their identities. Islamophobia and xenophobia need no explanation, however.
Let’s see in the summertime with the Super PAC money flowing into the election if they will run ads in the South exploiting Islamophobia and xenophobia to get voters out to the polls against Obama. If so, they will be continuing the message that Obama is not like you, and he’s soft on Muslims, which implies that he might be one and also whispers that he’s Black.
As approval for President Barack Obama wanes, disenfranchised Arab American voters are keeping open minds for who to support come Election Day.
- By Jessica Carreras
When Dearborn resident Amal Berry-Brown left the National Leadership Conference for Arab Americans in October, she said she walked away sad.
Because while the annual conference–held in 2011 in Dearborn–is always about creating a unified political and social voice for the community, it’s hard to find unity without a clear political leader.
In 2008, that person was then presidential candidate Barack Obama. But heading into 2012’s election season, the choices are much murkier.
“The Arab American community is a bit disenfranchised,” Berry-Brown, a Comerica vice president and community leader, told Dearborn Patch last October. “We had a great deal of hope in President Obama, and some of that really hasn’t come to fruition. So in 2012, it will be interesting to see the overall stance the community takes in who they’ll be supporting, and what can be done.”
Berry-Brown’s attitude mirrors the greater Arab American and Muslim American communities in Michigan and nationally. With a president who has not lived up to expectations in terms of civil liberties, foreign policy and immigration law, and Republican candidates who nearly all have voiced anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric, Arab Americans are wondering: Who should we vote for? Or should we vote at all?
For Arab American and Muslim organizations that focus on civic engagement, the first and biggest goal is to get their constituents to the polls.
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations combats voter apathy with Get Out the Vote campaigns at local mosques, reminding Muslim Michiganders of the great responsibility they have to cast their ballot–even if the candidate is not aligned with all of the issues that matter to them.
“We’re encouraging people that the election is still important; voting is still important,” explained Executive Director Dawud Walid. “I tell them, ‘Don’t take your vote for granted. Many people are dying to get the right to vote.’”
“I think (apathy) is national,” he said. “Approval rates are low … and you’ve got a depressed environment in the country.”
And with the passion seen in 2008 gone for many voters, the approach of civic engagement organizations will change drastically for 2012 as well.
“There will be an effort to mobilize people, but it will be different than 2008,” Zogby said.
Obama Losing Support
Much of the apathy seen in Arab American voters stems from a feeling that no one candidate, or political party, represents them well.
While many of the nation’s estimated 3.5 million Arab American’s supported George W. Bush in 2000, a poll of community members conducted by Zogby International in 2008 found that 46 percent backed Obama in that year’s election, while 32 percent pledged support for Republican John McCain.
Some post-election estimates from the same year claimed that 90 percent Muslim voters supported Obama.
Osama Siblani, treasurer of the Arab American Political Action Committee, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab American News and founder of both, said it could be chalked up to the fact that many Arab Americans and Muslims are split on key issues.
“In general, Arab Americans are conservatives,” he said. “Politically they may be liberal, but on civil issues like abortion, taxes and stuff, they’re more conservative. But (the GOP) alienates the community when they talk about Islamaphobia.”
This go around, Siblani and others believe that Obama won’t do as well, although much of that depends on which Republican candidate comes out on top and how they campaign.
“We have issues with the Republican Party, but I don’t think the Democrats should take us for granted,” Siblani said. “This community is a very unique community. Politically they’re liberal, but it doesn’t take much to move them to the right.”
Zogby, however, said he thinks Obama will still be supported nationally among Arab American voters–especially because the disappointment among voters has not gone unnoticed by the Democratic Party.
“I think that the Democrats will do very well in 2012, and they’ll win back a lot of support,” Zogby said. “But I don’t think that the numbers will be where they were in 2008–meaning that the percentage (of support) will be the same, but the turnout will be less.”
As for Republicans, Zogby said a lot will depend on what the final candidate says and does during his campaign. So far, it hasn’t been good.
“The candidates have made rather shocking statements about the Middle East and about Islam,” he said. “These candidates scare the hell out of people.”
Walid agreed, and said that it seems in 2012, Islamaphobia has grown.
“There’s more anti-Muslim sentiment this election from the GOP, both locally and nationally,” he said.
With one exception, that is.
Ron Paul a Standout?
Ron Paul’s stance on foreign policy, support of streamlining immigration processes and staunch beliefs on the roles of government have won over many Arab American voters.
“Paul has been the only major Republican candidate to resist the type of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant demonization, fear-mongering and pandering to ultra-conservative voters in his party that has become pervasive in the post-9/11 climate,” the Arab American news wrote in their Feb. 24 endorsement of the candidate.
He’s also the only GOP candidate to actively court Arab American voters: his Feb. 27 stop at Dearborn’s Ford Community and Performing Arts Center is co-sponsored by the University of Michigan-Dearborn‘s Arab Student Union.
But, Zogby pointed out, Paul is generally considered to be out of the question as the 2012 GOP candidate.
“I think people look (at Ron Paul) the way people looked at (Independent candidate Ralph) Nader in 2004 and they say, ‘at least on some issues, he’s saying things I want to hear,’” Zogby explained. “But come November, it’ll be who’s on the ballot and what’s the choice.
“I understand the Ron Paul sentiment, but that will fade.”
Still, Siblani said support for Paul is more about making Arab American voices heard.
“The reason we’re trying to support Ron Paul in this primary is for us to have someone to speak at the platform at the Republican National Convention,” Siblani said. “If he gets 15-20 percent of the delegates, then he can be a force at the convention and he can bring up the issues that most Americans are concerned about.”
Which, Siblani said, could be the light bulb moment for the GOP in realizing they can and should court Arab American voters.
And although CAIR and the Arab American Institute do not endorse, groups like AAPAC do–and they have significant clout in the community.
“We’re willing to sit down and talk to any candidate,” Siblani said. “After that, the issue becomes deciding who is closer to the issues that we care about. And then after we discuss it amongst ourselves, we go to our community and try to get them on the same line with us, so we walk in united.”