Conservative talk radio hosts didn't endorse Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigration on Tuesday -- but they certainly didn't condemn him and almost uniformly refrained from criticizing him or his plan. Talk radio heavyweights Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin showed different levels of sympathy for Trump's idea on Tuesday.
Katrina Pierson, a spokesperson for Donald Trump's campaign, argued this morning on CNN that her boss' proposed Muslim ban has merit because "never in United States history have we allowed insurgents to come across these borders." Reminded that Trump's policy would block lots of peaceful people who have nothing to do with violence, the spokesperson was unmoved.
"So what?" Pierson replied. "They're Muslim."
Jeb Bush told MSNBC's Chuck Todd yesterday that the Trump campaign is relying on "dog-whistle proposals to prey on people's fears." That's half-right -- Trump is clearly preying on people's fears, but these aren't "dog-whistle proposals"; they're the exact opposite. The whole point of dog-whistle politics is subtlety and coded language. Trump's racism, however, is explicit and overt. "So what? They're Muslim" is less of a dog whistle and more of a bullhorn.
Republican officials would love dog-whistle politics. If they were really lucky, Trump's bigotry would be understated and built entirely around insinuation. But that's plainly not the case.
The question -- one of them, anyway -- is whether this will help or hurt the Republican frontrunner. BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray took the conservative movement's temperature yesterday by listening to talk radio.
Ingraham seemed the most critical, Levin the most sympathetic.
As for public opinion, it's too soon to gauge polling reactions, but we already have a sense of Republican voters' general attitudes on the subject.
Public Policy Polling published results yesterday on GOP voters' attitudes in North Carolina. Among the findings:
* 48% of North Carolina Republicans endorse the idea of a national database of Muslims.
* 42% of North Carolina Republicans believed thousands of Middle Easterners cheered in New Jersey on 9/11.
* 35% of North Carolina Republicans support shutting down American mosques.
* 32% of North Carolina Republicans believe practicing Islam in the United States should be illegal.
This is obviously just one state, but Public Policy Polling found similar results when surveying GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. In each instance, Trump supporters were more anti-Muslim than other candidates' supporters, but we're nevertheless talking about a significant chunk of the party base.
And with this in mind, it's not altogether clear what this week's controversy will do to Trump's standing. By some measures, the intensity of the pushback against Trump this week has been as ferocious as anything a Republican presidential candidate has faced in my lifetime. It's possible the breadth of the condemnations will shake his supporters' confidence and weaken his overall support.
But don't count on it. As we talked about yesterday, the political world has played the "Has Trump Gone Too Far This Time?" game a few too many times, and the answer is always the same. Not to put too fine a point on this, but there's a strong anti-Muslim animus among many GOP voters, and there's no reason to assume they'll be repulsed by what they heard this week.
I've seen some suggestions of late that Trump is single-handedly destroying the Republican brand with his extremism. Those who genuinely believe this should pause to ask themselves what's the bigger problem for the GOP: Trump's disgusting rhetoric or the fact that so many Republican voters agree with it?