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Republican references to 'real Americans' incite division and fear

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As documented in the 2010 Census, the United States is in the midst of a demographic transformation. Minorities, now roughly one-third of the US population, are expected to become the collective majority before the middle of the century. These changes will have a long-term cultural and political impact, but they are also fueling an immediate backlash.

It appears that a small group of Americans have met these demographic changes with a mixture of fear and anxiety. America is changing too quickly and too uncomfortably for some, and it seems they have looked to their political home for reassurance and guidance.

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.

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