It didn’t take long for Republicans to find a novel way to politicize the terrorist attacks in Paris, and not just through the normal bleating about doing what President Obama is already doing, but doing it more/better/louder. Now they have made the refugees fleeing terrorist violence in Syria into a political wedge, and they’re doing it in the most obvious, despicable fashion imaginable. Refusing to take any refugees from Syria wasn’t enough for some Republicans, many of whom have floated the suggestion that we take only Christian refugees from Syria.
The political benefits of this are obvious; you get to simultaneously make irrationally panicked people feel like you’ve got their safety at heart, pander to the “good” Christian people in your base by identifying them as the good guy, while also pandering to the Pamela Geller types who hate Muslims even more than they love Jesus. Meanwhile, you force Democrats into a position where they’re defending an easily-demonized group of people.
The success of this plan, though, depends on never uttering it within earshot of a reporter with more than two functioning brain cells, a feat which former Florida Governor and current Republican presidential wishful Jeb Bush couldn’t quite pull off. I’d like to give Kasie Hunt credit for making this look easy, but it actually was easy:
Jeb!: You’re a Christian. you can prove you’re a Christian.
Kasie Hunt: How?
Jeb!: I think you can prove it. If you can’t prove it, then you know, you err on the side of caution.
So, ISIS has all these sophisticated capabilities, but they can’t purchase trinkets? What’s the plan, line up everyone wearing a cross, ask them their favorite Bible verse, and shoot the ones who begin to recite “Jesus Walks?” What do you do with the ones who say “poverbs?” Hell, it’s been seven years and they still won’t take Obama’s word for it.
The answer is that it isn’t a plan at all, of course, it’s just a way to sow Islamophobia by dividing the “good” Christian refugees from the Muslim ones who you just don’t know about. Despite all their pleadings that this isn’t a war on all Muslims, that they’re not saying all Muslims are terrorists, this “Christians only” premise exposes them. They’re not saying all Muslims are terrorists, but what they are saying is that you can’t trust any Muslims because you can’t tell the good ones from the bad ones. The net effect is the same, and it is precisely the notion that President Obama and the Democrats have been guarding against through the precision of language that the press has abetted Republicans in deriding.
As little regard as I have for Jeb Bush and the Republicans, I refuse to believe that they seriously thought there was a way to announce a “Christians only” plan, and then somehow prevent Syrian refugees from posing as Christians to circumvent it. What, were they going to scan their retinas while telling the stories about overturned tortoises? It worked in Blade Runner.
No, they knew that it was enough merely to say that they were going to separate the Christian wheat from the dirty Muslim chaff, to draw that bright line between good and maybe probably evil. Even good people, if you scare them enough, can succumb to the lizard-brain logic of such an appeal, and bad people? We will have to sit and grimly wait to see how it works on them.
Cross-posted from Mediaite