In today's column, Will Safire writes that the majority of Arab Americans will be voting for Kerry. But the majority of Jewish Americans will also be voting for Kerry! His overall point is that the Jewish Americans should vote en bloc for Bush because Kerry's policies are mere me-toos while Bush has a record as a staunch ally of Israel. Safire can make that point without mentioning at all the Muslim Americans but he makes the implicit argument that if the Muslim/Arab voters can have a collective understanding, why can't the Jewish voters do the same?
The truth is that there is no real difference in the policies of either candidates with regards to Israel. Kerry panders as much as anyone else for the Jewish vote. On the other hand, at least one group, the media-savvy Muslims for Bush claim that Kerry has not pandered enough to the Muslim bloc and, hence, does not deserve their vote. In their view, it is Bush who has consistently supported Muslim Americans while Kerry never even met with any Muslim groups and is, also, weak on the Patriot Act [How is the guy who enacted Patriot Act better?]. A quick web search on the respective candidates' official websites disproves that. There is no page for Arab Americans or Muslim Americans on georgewbush.com. There is no statement on civil rights or the Patriot Act (the site's search kept crashing on account of having to search through so many internets, maybe). There is, at least, a page on John Kerry's website for Arab Americans, as well a statement on the beginning of Ramadan. There are also a bunch of links on Kerry's commitment to anti-profiling, fair adjudication etc. There is even a fact-sheet.
Back to the Muslim bloc. The party claiming to represent the Muslim American bloc is the American Muslim Taskforce. They are an umbrella organization over the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and various smaller groups. Last week after much hemming and hawing, they finally unveiled their qualified endorsement for Kerry. The qualification was that Kerry has not done enough to protest the civil right abuses under the Bush administration:
Following careful consideration of overall U.S. interests, interaction with presidential campaign officials and extensive input from the Islamic community, the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections - Political Action Committee (AMT-PAC) is calling on Muslims nationwide to cast a protest vote for Sen. John Kerry. While the Kerry campaign has critiqued a number of Bush administration polices, it has so far failed to explicitly affirm support for due process, equal justice and other constitutional norms. We are also disappointed that his campaign has shied away from expressing unambiguous support for principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution that prohibit use of ex post facto laws, secret proceedings and secret evidence.Seems like the AMT is hedging its bets and not wanting to seriously piss off the Bush administration. They say they got to this endorsement by doing town hall meetings in more than 70 mosques and community centers across America. Maybe they should have asked Zogby whose Sep. 22nd poll showed a 76% support for Kerry. Pretty unqualified in my opinion.
My anecdotal reading is that the Muslim American community is largely culturally conservative and would tend to go Republican BUT Ashcroft has scared them off at least this administration (on a side note, I will be Ashcroft this Halloween!). I do not think that the Democrats will hold this bloc that easily. They will need solid civil liberties re-assurance as well as some movement on the Immigration reforms.
Will the Muslim Vote, like the NASCAR Fathers, the Security Moms be the demographic du jour for the next few days? Let's see. One thing is for sure, it will play a role in Michigan and Ohio.
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Richard Henry Morgan - 10/26/2004
I'm not so sure the bannings are weird as a group, or on an individual basis. My understanding is that Stevens was a contributor to Hamas. It has become Israeli (and apparently, Bush) policy to no longer recognize any distinction between civilian and terrorist wings of the same organization.
BTW, it seems that Kerry's foreign policy man, Richard Holbrooke, promises that Kerry will get tough on Israel. Could be a factor.
Oscar Chamberlain - 10/25/2004
It is intriguing how civil liberties questions can shift constituencies. I've alwyas thought that gays and lesbians would tend to be conservative, were in not for continued persecution by Republicans.
The policies on visas and the truly weird banning of prominent Muslims from entering the United States has angered and distrubed Arab Americans, and for very good reasons. I suspect our intelligence data here and aborad would be better if the government had approached this portion of our populace, and the institutions they help support, with requests as opposed to demands.