I’m talking about candidates who don’t cloak their prejudice at all. In 2012, the prime offender was Herman Cain. “I happen to side with the people in Murfreesboro,” Cain said, after the residents of that Tennessee town tried to block the building of a mosque. Cain explained that while banning churches or synagogues constitutes religious discrimination, banning mosques does not. Because “Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, Sharia law,” Cain explained, “that’s not discriminating based upon religion.” When asked whether he would feel “comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?” Cain replied, “No, I will not,” because “there is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.”
There’s not much subtlety here. Had Cain said communities should be able to ban churches because Christians impose their sexual morality on others, or that he would not appoint a Jew to his cabinet because Jews are loyal to Israel, he’d have been hounded from the race. But because Cain made his comments about Muslims, he felt no real pressure to drop out from his own ideological side. To the contrary, he continued to rise in the polls after he made those comments, only leaving the race in the wake of an unrelated sex scandal.
That was last time. This time, the most naked bigot in the emerging Republican field is Mike Huckabee. Earlier this week, Huckabee said that “Everything he [Obama] does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community.” There’s no artifice here. Huckabee’s not condemning Obama for being soft on ISIS or even “radical Islam.” He’s condemning Obama for caring about Muslims. If you don’t see the bigotry, try flipping it around. Imagine if Huckabee had said that Obama “is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Muslims in the Middle East. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Jewish community.” Republicans would be, rightly, calling for his head.
There’s a pattern here. In 2011, Huckabee said Christians shouldn’t rent space in their churches to Muslims because “Muslim group[s]” say “that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated.” Huckabee wasn’t talking about al-Qaeda. He accused ordinary American Muslims, who might need space to pray, of wanting to see Christians “obliterated.” Then, in 2013, he called Islam “a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet in their so-called holiest days.” Not al-Qaeda or jihadists or terrorists, but Islam itself. According to Huckabee, in other words, Muslims want Christians “obliterated” and Islam promotes murder. He went on to say that “the Muslims will go to the mosque, and they will have their day of prayer, and they come out of there like uncorked animals—throwing rocks and burning cars.”