While Newt Gingrich is off accusing President Obama of pandering to radical jihadists by acknowledging the fundamental constitutional right to worship, some moderate members of the GOP, including top Muslim and Arab-American Republicans are working behind the scenes to change the tone of their party’s rhetoric surrounding Cordoba House. According to reports those working to change the tone include officials who served in the Bush administration or have strong ties to GOP leadership. If the news cycle is to be believed though, those efforts have created little change.
The problem for the GOP with the amplified and racist rhetoric surrounding Cordoba House is much the same it faces with the rhetoric surrounding immigration reform. By appealing to fear and the nativist impulses of its fringe the GOP risks becoming a marginalized party for years to come.
Similar to Latino voters, the Muslim or Arab-American voting bloc expresses conservative issues and voting tendencies. But, very much like Latino voters, the GOP has witnessed these voters flee in droves to Democratic camps over the past eight years as Republicans increasingly refuse to distinguish between Islam and its extremist elements. This has only increased as purported leaders like Gingrich bat around inflammatory accusations like Cordoba House being the first step in an imposition of Sharia law.
Furthermore, as moderate Republicans like David Ramadan, a prominent Muslim-American conservative operative point out, it is absurd for Republicans to claim to be a party of constitutional fidelity while it simultaneously uses opposition to the Islamic cultural center as an electoral wedge issue.
Of course the problem facing Ramadan, and any other voice of reason right now in the GOP, is that they lack any real political capital–either financial or cultural. But for the rest of us who are appalled at the direction of this conversation it is our duty to support Ramadan’s efforts and to push back with him and others within the GOP against this wedge and to yank back control of this debate. If we fail to do so then we are as guilty of perpetuating the uninformed racism as those like Palin and Gingrich who are at best using this issue to score cheap political points and at worst to impose a new vision of religious intolerance on our democracy.
photo courtesy of Mick Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr