There’s a State of the Union speech tonight, but for Republicans, the best speeches were given this weekend. Talking to a ‘think tank’ in London, Republican Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal endorsed a laughably-insane viral email/Fox News meme about Muslim “no-go zones” in major European cities:
Some countries have allowed Muslims to establish autonomous neighborhoods in cities where they govern by a harsh version of Islamic law, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday during a speech in London.
The Republican, who is considering a presidential campaign in 2016, later defended — and repeated — the statement after facing reporters’ questions about his claims.
Like the witless Mitt Romney, who couldn’t grasp that his Fox News disinformation about President Obama’s word choices in the wake of the Benghazi attack was grounded only in the wishful thinking of rabid Obama-haters, Jindal experienced a collision between his words and reality. The nonsense he propounded in London had already provided plenty of comedy fodder on French television in the last week. But Jindal’s intended audience will not be impressed by any amount of debunking or ridicule: increasingly, American conservatives want to believe in fairy tales about Muslims taking over the West, particularly America, and refusing to assimilate.
These stories feed their self-justification. If you believe a certain thing to be true, no matter how stupid it is, then your ‘belief’ becomes permission to say and do all sorts of things which would otherwise contradict your stated principles. That’s not just how the jihadi’s mind works, it’s how a right wing culture warrior’s mind works, too, which is why it’s so important to look at what the ‘new’ Republican base is actually demanding to hear from its elected officials.
Jindal was hardly the only Republican to give a speech this weekend. Ted Cruz was in South Carolina to address the state Tea Party convention. Emphases are mine:
“Do we go back to the same old, same old? Or do we stand for principle,” Cruz told the mostly middle-aged and retired crowd, referring to the uninspiring “mushy middle” where he said Republican presidential candidates have gravitated in recent elections.
“If we nominate another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole, John McCain or Mitt Romney … the same people who stayed home in ’08 an ’12 will stay home in ’16 and the Democrat will win again,” Cruz said.
Cruz hasn’t announced his presidential candidacy yet, but he told NBC News after he speech that he’s “looking very seriously” at a run, adding that he expects the field to be set in the next few months and it is likely to include candidates that appeal to different factions within the Republican Party. “I think we will likely see a crowded field and we’re going to have a robust national debate about the right direction for this country, how we lead and how we win.”
Cruz spoke to his core supporters supporters Sunday, however. The crowd was extremely open to a Cruz candidacy in this critical presidential nominating state. Parlaying his appeal, he asked the crowd to text the word “constitution” to his political action committee, enabling him to increase his supporter contact database and direct people to his fundraising website.
The feisty conservative elicited standing ovations when he demanded the “repeal of every word of Obamacare,” the abolition of the IRS and the implementation of a flat tax, and stopping President Barack Obama’s “illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty.”
This is the same conference that was originally supposed to host a white nationalist speaker from the Council of Conservative Citizens (get it? CCC = KKK). After that speaker was scrubbed by embarrassed organizers, the Institute for Research and Education in Human Rights (IREHR) continued exposing extremists who were attending the event: anti-gay hate leader Jake MacAulay, whose organization is linked to white supremacists, was removed from the convention website but not the program. Bill Norton, an acolyte of racist John Birch Society pseudohistorian Cleon Skousen known for touting slavery apologetics, was also identified as a speaker and may have actually taken the stage.
All of which underscores just what kind of audience Cruz was addressing when he called for a more extreme presidential candidate to satisfy the ‘real conservatives.’ Consider how this situation works to undermine a new Republican strategy for dealing with the advance of marriage equality by acceptance, thus undercutting charges of rampant institutional homophobia in the GOP:
But what remains problematic for these candidates — and what is reflected in statements they often make in the next breath about the importance of safeguarding “religious liberties” — is the fact that many Republican primary voters do not want to drop the fight.
“Marriage won’t be the issue in the Southern primaries,” said Oran Smith, head of the conservative Palmetto Family Council in South Carolina. “But it is a box, an important box, that simply must be checked.”
With the center-right 2016 hopefuls expressing a certain sense of acceptance that same-sex marriage in all 50 states could be a foregone conclusion, there is an opening for socially conservative candidates like Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, and Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, to make gay rights a wedge.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another possible Republican contender, has also signaled that he would push hard on the issue.
There was also a Republican convention in Michigan this weekend, and just look who was there to speak:
The PowWow’s lead-off speaker is Dave Agema, a former state legislator who is under intense pressure from mainstream Republicans to resign his current post as one of Michigan’s two Republican National Committee members.
Agema has been criticized for public remarks and social media posts denigrating homosexuals, blacks and Muslims, among other groups. Most recently, he has been criticized for posting an article from a white supremacist newsletter arguing that black people are innately inferior to whites.
Agema’s prominent role in the PowWow is the reason several prominent Republican officeholders and conservative groups, including the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, have decided to steer clear of this year’s meeting in Mt. Pleasant.
But his appearance on the PowWow podium elicits the first of several standing ovations that he will get this weekend, and he wastes little time in attacking the “political correctness” gripping his party, which he finds “nauseating.”
“If you’re tea party, if you’re ex-military, if you’re a gun owner, you’re a terrorist now,” he says. “Well, I’m all three.”
Over the next half hour, Agema takes on illegal immigrants (“97% are in construction”), homosexuals (“You will have more psychological problems, and you will die young”) and the federal judiciary (“which is relying on foreign law to decide cases in American courts”).
Even better, the amazing Jerry Boykin was also on hand at Mt. Pleasant to slap an extra layer of insane culture war-frosting onto the conservative fruitcake:
Boykin has spent much of the last decade telling audiences like this one that Christians are locked in a holy war with Islam. He bristles at “revisionist historians” who dismiss America’s founding fathers as “theists,” insisting they prayed to the same God he and other Christian fundamentalists worship.
“I know of nothing indicating that any of them were Muslims,” he says.
Muslims, it turns out, are something of an obsession with Boykin, who circles back to them again and again in a folksy half-hour ramble punctuated by frequent references to “stealth jihad” and the threat Sharia law poses to American jurisprudence.
“Most of the Muslims in Dearborn don’t want Sharia law. They don’t want jihad,” Boykin says. “But the only ones that have a voice want jihad.”
Boykin, whose distinguished military career ended on a sour note when the Army reprimanded him for making public remarks disparaging Islam and publishing an unapproved memoir in which he was accused of disclosing classified information, says that allegations of religious bigotry leveled against him and other Christian fundamentalists are overblown.
“I don’t hate Muslims,” he says. “I actually want to help them by bringing the light, the gospel of Jesus Christ to them.”
Under normal circumstances, Boykin’s call to invade Muslim countries and forcibly convert them to Christianity — ‘save their souls’ — would be recognized as a violent and authoritarian sentiment. But for an audience that desperately wants to believe in Muslim “no-go zones” all over Paris, Boykin’s call for the armed oppression of Islam offers precisely the sort of simplistic, Manichean, black-and-white kind of world that has been so sorely missed since the fall of the Soviet Union.
And what are we to make of the “moderate” Mitt Romney, who attempted to re-invent himself for the 2016 presidential race with a Friday speech to the Republican National Committee in which he called for a “more muscular foreign policy” — i.e., new American wars in the Muslim world to kill thousands of Americans while making people like Jerry Boykin feel like their religious crusade is making progress? The evidence suggests that he’s not kidding, and that the Republican base is not interested in social or international peace. Instead, they dream of Four More Wars.
These people have come for the party, but they will only stay for the jihad.