Tag Archives: Ron Paul

A Moment With…Omar Sacirbey

By Sarah Breger

A June 2011 Pew poll found that 76 percent of Muslim Americans approved of President Obama’s performance in the White House—a figure far above the national average. The Muslim American community also voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in 2004 and in 2008, a major shift from 2000, when more than three-quarters voted for Republican George W. Bush. Despite these numbers, many Muslims are disillusioned with the president and the changes they believe he promised but hasn’t delivered. While the Muslim electorate is far from monolithic, and its numbers make up just a small fraction of the country’s population, Muslim voting power may prove significant in a close election.

Moment’s managing editor Sarah Breger speaks with Omar Sacirbey, a Boston-based correspondent for the Religion News Service and other publications, on this often-overlooked portion of the electorate.

MM: You recently wrote an article on presidential hopeful Ron Paul’s support in the Muslim community. Is there a “Muslim vote” in America? What are some factors that contribute to the Muslim vote?

OB: There’s more diversity in the Muslim vote this time around than in past elections. There’s a number of reasons for that. The community is becoming more diverse in terms of immigrants and American-born Muslims, and Muslims who came here when they were very young. Regarding Ron Paul, there is a mix of factors as to why this is happening. One is disappointment in Obama. When Obama won the 2008 election Muslims were hopeful, but those hopes have been somewhat tempered. Now, three years into his administration, many Muslims are disappointed that he hasn’t gotten the United States out of Afghanistan; they’re disappointed that he hasn’t done more, in their view, for the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and they’re disappointed in regards to civil rights issues, such as the Patriot Act and policies on indefinite detention, and so on. When they hear Ron Paul, they’re turned on by his statements on getting the United States out of Afghanistan and out of foreign engagements altogether; his desire to cut aid to Israel, indeed, to cut all foreign aid in general but again that he is including Israel; as well as his strong opposition to the Patriot Act and what a lot of Muslims—and others—see as draconian civil rights policies.

MM: Do Muslim Americans align with his social policies?

OB: There’s a mix. A lot of people are willing to overlook disagreements on these social issues in favor of these broader issues. Just like maybe some “values voters” might be willing to overlook Newt Gingrich’s divorces in favor of his conservative agenda.

MM: And are there areas where winning the Muslim vote is vital? 

OB: It’s hard to imagine the Muslim vote being a “make or break” kind of a vote, but it could make the difference in some states where there is a fairly large Muslim population, such as Michigan or Ohio, which are swing states. Possibly even Pennsylvania, where the Muslim population is probably smaller than in Michigan or in Ohio, but perhaps still big enough that in a state that’s going to be closely contested it could make a difference. There’s also a fairly significant Muslim population in smaller states, like Iowa. Again, it’s hard to see them making a huge difference, but if it’s going to be a closely contested election, every vote really will count.

MM: Are there candidates who are actively courting the Muslim vote?

OB: In this field—no. Romney, Gingrich, Santorum are viewed by Muslims as pretty much anti-Muslim candidates. I think you’d be hard pressed to find Muslims who support these guys. We will likely see similar behavior from Obama as in the past election, where a lot of Muslims were disappointed that when opponents would say, “Oh, he’s a Muslim,” or has Muslim sympathies, he wouldn’t say, “Well, I’m not a Muslim, but what’s wrong with being a Muslim?” like Colin Powell did. A lot of Muslims were disappointed in that, but others understood it and are willing this time around to forgive him for that

MM: Will the recently proposed anti-sharia legislation and surrounding discussions factor into voting decisions or serve to galvanize the Muslim vote in any way?

OB: It wouldn’t surprise me, because it has become such a prevalent issue since the whole process was initiated in Oklahoma—a lot of Muslims really are upset by this. They consider sharia to be personal and private and don’t want any kind of mixing between religion and government. They’re really offended by these types of actions, and scared by what they consider to be ignorance and hatred of their faith by these people who are in government. The anti-sharia movement has been a catalyst for many Muslims to become more active, even just getting out more in their communities. If you have a kid in your local elementary school, you’re maybe that much more likely to go to a PTA meeting, to go to a school board meeting, just getting out there and being visible. I think if that’s been the case, then it stands to reason that there could be a backlash against this anti-sharia movement, and a desire by Muslims to stand up and vote against people that are advocating these kinds of laws could be a factor that gets them out to the polls in November.

What We’re Reading: Election Edition

by Sarah Breger

The Highlights

The new issue of the Jewish journal Sh’ma, which focuses on “the Jewish electorate in 2012,” is full of interesting pieces worth checking out. Of note is an essay by historian Jonathan Sarna on the role of the Jewish vote in past presidential elections. Sarna writes that the 1868 election was the first election that saw a focus on the Jewish vote; Republican candidate and Civil War hero General Ulysses S. Grant worried that his 1862 order expelling all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi—his military district—would come back to haunt him.

On the contrary, Sarna writes:

In fact, a number of prominent Jews supported Grant, preferring his message of unity and peace to the openly racist message of his Democratic opponents, who opposed Reconstruction and promised to abolish black suffrage. Jews in that election faced a conundrum that may sound familiar to readers today: Should they vote for a party they considered bad for the country just to avoid voting for a man who had been bad to the Jews?

Two other noteworthy bits of trivia from the article: The great Jewish switch to the Democratic party only came in 1928, and Jimmy Carter captured only 45 percent of the Jewish vote in 1980.

On Our Desktop

  • The wonderful Ariel Levy’s New Yorker profile on Callista Gingrich.
  • The Christian Right is dying.
  • Proof that feathered hair and floral dress shirts will, in fact, go out of style one day.

Ron Paul’s Unkosher Track Record

by Amanda Walgrove

Representative Ron Paul announced his bid for the presidency over a week ago, but not before taking a hit from the Republican Jewish Coalition. Foreseeing the problems that Paul’s candidacy would cause for Jewish Republicans, RJC executive director Matt Brooks took the precaution of expressing concern about Paul a day before the Texas congressman announced his campaign, saying that Paul’s “misguided and extreme views” are not representative of the Republican Party. While Brooks is correct, the Republicans have yet to produce many convincing contenders who could pull the spotlight away from Paul and highlight views toward Israel that can be representative of the GOP. Some say that his policies don’t reflect any anti-Jewish sentiments, but rather just a broad isolationist view, which happens to include cutting aid to Israel. But this isn’t the first time that Paul has made RJC nervous. During his campaign for the 2008 election, Paul was barred from the RJC’s Candidate’s Forum due to his stance against providing further foreign aid to Israel.

A former obstetrician, Paul transitioned into politics because of his interest in reinstating the gold standard that Nixon slashed. While Paul ran as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008, having his name on the Republican ticket for 2012 doesn’t sit well with all GOP members. Especially during a time of turmoil in the Middle East and with all eyes on Israel, the foreign policy of the winner of the 2012 election will be crucial in garnering support. Paul already has an infamously unpopular track record with his policy. He has suggested cutting $3 billion in annual defense assistance to Israel as well as denying funds to its Arab neighbors. Brooks asserted that Paul appeals to only a narrow constituency in the U.S. electorate, citing his “dangerous isolationist vision” for the U.S. and harsh criticism of Israel. As a prime example of this, Paul openly condemned the raid and murder of Osama Bin Laden.

It’s not only on the topic of Israel that Paul’s viewpoints place him squarely outside the mainstream. A recent Tablet Magazine article highlighted some of the more offensive musings of Paul’s political career. Most outrageously, in a New Republic article from 2008, James Kirchick revealed how Paul’s newsletters—then a conventional way for hardline conservatives to communicate with the populace—contained statements that were not only disrespectful to Jews but were also racist and offensive to homosexuals. While Paul’s adversaries have plenty of opportunities to easily inflame the severity of some of these statements, many believe that as a presidential candidate, Paul should account for some of these previous transgressions. Many laud Paul for his consistency, but considering his track record, consistency may not be an attractive quality. His inability to reform his idealistic objectives over time makes him a bit of an outcast, and an unsuitably inflexible candidate.

Given the oddities of Paul’s career, an NPR article considered the curious flocking of youths to Paul’s campaign, evident by the substantial number of twenty-somethings turning up at his rallies and book signings. Sixteen-year-old Rob Gray wasn’t surprised by the young audience, offering that it’s just “the old canard of the young being more open-minded than the old.” Some attendees at the most recent book signing for Liberty Defined mentioned that they may someday have to support a candidate with a better chance of winning, but not now.

Although the third time may not be a charm for Ron Paul, for now, his candidacy mostly seems to be stirring up controversy, especially among RJC and its supporters who are left biting their nails until a fresh face emerges. With Newt Gingrich losing his support, it’s time for a GOP candidate who condones America’s aid to Israel to step up to the plate if the Republicans want to retain their support of the Jewish homeland.