Will Safire is troubled. In today’s column, he writes that the Arab Americans are ALL voting for Kerry. Which is ok, he says, it is their right. But, the bizarro world scenario is that the majority of Jewish Americans are also 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 opens the column with it. Is he making an implicit argument for the Jewish American vote to be contrary to the Arab American vote? Or is it a Look! those guys know which way the toast is buttered!? Nifty use of stereotypical politics, I think.
The truth is that there is no real difference in the policies of either candidates. 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). 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 that Safire uses as a red herring (green herring?). 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. 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.