As you know by now, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump recently called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out what’s going on.” In case you missed the clarification issued by a Trump spokester, this policy as Trump envisions it would apply even to Muslims who are U.S. citizens and who happen to be out of the country when the policy kicks in. (On a constitutional basis, I do assume that that last bit makes the policy truly a non-starter because, unlike refugees seeking to emigrate, these are U.S. citizens with First Amendment protections.)
The policy has led to a lot of liberals thinking that this is going to be fatal for — or at least bad for — Trump’s political fortunes. I worry that liberals who think that way are reacting as liberals, with liberal friends, and have not tried hard enough yet to understand Trump’s appeal. Personally, I think this might help Trump in the short term, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s an excerpt from the analysis of Republican pundit and media personality Erick Erickson from a piece titled “This is a brilliant move by Donald Trump”:
“This is actually brilliant politics for the here and now. Immediately, every other Republican candidate except Ted Cruz rushed out to attack Donald Trump. He’s unhinged, hateful, etc. And the responses all amounted to ‘we must let muslims [sic] enter our country,’ which sounds a whole lot like ‘we must allow all Mexicans in our country,’ which everyone knows is blatantly untrue on both counts.
“We do not have to do it, but the other candidates, unable to nuance their spittle, went all in with ‘no religious tests’ and ‘yes we must do this because it is who we are.’
“So, to put it another way, the day after the President failed to reassure a scared public following the second worst terrorist attack since 9/11 on domestic soil, Donald Trump not only got himself to the right of all the other candidates, but also got every single one of them save for Ted Cruz to align themselves with Barack Obama.
“Hate Donald Trump all you want, be offended by his proposal all you want, but it is really brilliant politics for Trump right now in the Republican primary and the reactions from the other candidates prove it. All the people attacking Trump on his immigration proposals now attacking him on this have done themselves no favors within the primary process.”
On a substantive basis, I wanted to pass along the public statement by Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. I am Jewish and Hunegs is a friend of mine and I would be proud to associate myself with his comments which appear in full below:
“As Jews throughout the world celebrate Chanukah, which commemorates our ancestors’ national liberation, and on the heels of our American Thanksgiving, we are reminded that religious freedom is both a Jewish and American value, which can only truly flourish when this right is safeguarded for all people.
“By contrast, Mr. Trump’s hateful proposal to bar Muslims, including American citizens, from entry to the United States based solely on their religion is deeply offensive to us as Jews, unquestionably unconstitutional, and has absolutely no place in American politics.
“As Americans and as Jews, we are cognizant that Mr. Trump’s proposal comes in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, CA, by a couple apparently radicalized by the Islamic State terrorist group. While we join our fellow Americans in mourning the murder of 14 innocent people, scapegoating and singling out all Muslims for odious discrimination is not a solution worthy of the American people or our traditions. It is also precisely the kind of absurd overreaction that our enemies are counting on to incite additional rounds of lethal terrorism against Americans and our allies.
“Finally, as a nonprofit organization, which neither endorses or opposes candidates for office or favors one political party over the other, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas is heartened to see that swift condemnation for Mr. Trump’s obnoxious, nativist proposal is coming not just from our national Jewish partners, but also from Mr. Trump’s fellow Republican presidential candidates and from respected conservative Jewish publications such as Commentary Magazine.”
On the substance of Trump’s policy, I agree with Hunegs. On the politics, I have a hunch that Erickson might be right.