It is this fear of the “un-American” that undergirds the persistent assertion by 17 percent of registered voters that President Obama is Muslim. Others label him a socialist. Such mistrust has also led to the ongoing “birther” movement – those who question the validity of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, alleging he was born in Kenya. Republican celebrities like Donald Trump have at times tacitly or overtly endorsed such groups.
Instead of reassuring their members, this fringe group of Republicans has exploited the environment of mistrust to secure votes and fill their campaign coffers. By fashioning themselves as defenders of what Sarah Palin once termed “real America,” these melancholic preachers have used nostalgia to contrive a vision of a homogeneous America that is supposedly slipping away.
Not all Republicans are guilty of domestic divisiveness, but it is an unfortunate reality that members such as Bachmann and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas (who is continuing the accusations of Muslim Brotherhood influence in America) are allowed a prominent home under the Republican tent. The tragic irony of their vision is not that America is slipping from their grasp, but rather that the Republican fringe is increasingly hostile to the American ideal of a multi-cultural and pluralistic society.
While presidential campaigns are often decided on wedge issues, a continued strategy within parts of the Republican Party to vilify those from diverse backgrounds as “un-American” is incredibly shortsighted.