Could it be that conservative xenophobia is no longer an effective campaign tool for Republicans? That might be one lesson from Herman Cain's slowing momentum. Perhaps it's because his campaign of cultural politics is now making more news than any of his policy ideas.
Mr. Cain's latest exclamation came yesterday, when the former pizza magnate told Fox News yesterday that American communities like Murfreesboro, Tennessee, should be able to ban mosques (video below):
Murfreesboro is about a half-hour drive south from Nashville, a city where many Iraqi refugees settled after the first Iraq war. Vandals and arsonists have targeted the proposed site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. The leader of that mosque responded to Mr. Cain's gasoline on the fire:
"It is sad to hear these words coming from a GOP presidential candidate, who is not only supposed to believe in but should also uphold the US Constitution," (Imam Ossama) Bahloul said. "Mr. Cain is encouraged to educate himself about the First Amendment and learn more about our peaceful and productive Muslim community in Murfreesboro."
Oh, and about that First Amendment...writing in today's Washington Post, Adam Serwer has a response that you must see. It's after the jump:
Cain argues that it’s not “discriminating against based upon religion” for a community to ban a mosque, which is absurd on its face. Cain is saying it’s not discrimination to discriminate.
The most pathetic part of Cain’s argument however, is his insistence that “the people in the community know best.” Most people in Tennessee support or are indifferent to the mosque, only 28 percent of those polled last year opposed it. But even if the community were overwhelmingly opposed to the mosque, that wouldn’t justify discriminating against Muslims, anymore than popular support for segregation in the 1960s American South would have justified discriminating against blacks. Cain recently opined that President Barack Obama isn’t a “strong black man” like Martin Luther King Jr. Does Cain truly believe that the MLK Jr, who referred to Islam as one of the world’s “great religions” and fought his entire life against the idea that “local control” somehow trumps the fundamental rights of individual minorities, would have supported a ban on mosques?
It was the first President of the United States however, who said that America gives to “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” Those words were more aspiration than fact when George Washington, himself a slaveowner, wrote them. But today, they are among the most basic principles any presidential candidate must uphold. Cain doesn’t even appear to want to uphold them.