Let’s see. Over the past few days and weeks, Donald Trump has said:
- The Obama administration is deliberately sending Syrian refugees only to red states as an act of political retribution.
- Obama wants to take in 200,000 Syrian refugees, despite being told repeatedly that he’s off by a factor of ten or twenty.
- If you’re a Christian refugee from Syria, the Obama administration won’t let you in. Obama only wants Muslim refugees.
- We should have tight surveillance on mosques and might need to close some down.
- We may have to think about creating a government registry of all Muslims.
- On 9/11, there were thousands of people in Arab sections of Jersey City cheering when the World Trade Center went down.
More generally, Trump has said that we’re going to have to do things that were “unthinkable” a year ago. Considering the list of things he apparently believes are perfectly thinkable right now, that sends chills down your spine. And yet, this man continues to lead the GOP race and appears to be gaining momentum from his Father Coughlinesque brand of xenophobia and fearmongering.
How does this happen? A big part of it is because other high-profile Republicans are too cowardly to fight back. Nearly every Republican governor has jumped on the vile, big-talking bandwagon of refusing to allow any Syrian refugees to settle in their states. Every Republican presidential candidate favors a ban on accepting further Muslim Syrian refugees. Jeb Bush thinks we should only accept Christian refugees from Syria. Ted Cruz isn’t a fan of “government registries” but otherwise thinks Trump is great. Straight-talking Chris Christie dodges when he’s asked if existing Syrian refugees should be kicked out of New Jersey. Marco Rubio dodges when he’s asked if we might have to close down mosques.
Overall, with the semi-honorable exception of Jeb Bush, no Republican candidate has been willing to seriously push back on either Trump’s old Mexican demagoguery or his shiny new Muslim demagoguery. All this despite the fact that Mexican immigration is down and the United States hasn’t suffered a significant attack from overseas terrorists in over a decade. All it took to wake this latent hysteria was some terrorist activity in other countries. God help us.