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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

 
Right wing xenophobia has been building for a long time

by digby

I wrote about the latest in the refugee panic for Salon this morning:

 The entire Republican Party, with the notable exception of Jeb Bush, has now decided that we must not only close the borders to Mexicans but to people from the Middle East as well. But it is actually unsurprising considering that much of the 2016  presidential campaign has been built around the issue of unwanted immigrants.  The GOP base has been working itself up into a xenophobic frenzy for quite some time.
The nativist tendency has always been part of American life. But its intensity waxes and wanes for a lot of reasons and not all of them economic. I recently wrote about the “discomfort” many Americans were feeling a decade or so ago in places like Herndon, Virginia,  which were, for the first time, experiencing an influx of migrant workers from Mexico and Central America. The locals even formed a militia to combat what were basically cultural differences with which they felt uncomfortable.
There have been flare-ups of anti-Muslim fervor as well. (The protest against the building of a mosque near Ground Zero memorably comes to mind.) George W. Bush, to his credit always worked hard to keep a lid on full blown anti-Muslim bigotry. The minute he left, however, the gloves came off; but it was focused exclusively on the new president whom many right wingers believed was Muslim and likely “foreign.”
And then a year and a half ago, we had a child refugee crisis on our border as thousands of children sought asylum from the gang violence and terror in their home countries in Central America. We took them in over the shrieking objections of conservatives, who launched a crusade against them that was so disgusting, it rivaled racist and nativist rhetoric we have not heard for half a century. That crisis was a major factor in the first big earthquake of the political cycle, motivating voters to oust House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary race.
These pictures were all over our television screens in the summer of 2014:
In the fall, along came the Ebola crisis which opened up the anti-immigrant fervor to another continent:
Thanks to Ebola, some xenophobic attitudes have been on full display recently. Last month, a cover of Newsweek used a chimp to illustrate a story about how bush meat imported from Africa could be a “back door for Ebola.” Lawmakers have suggested that Ebola-infected people may stream across the Mexico border. A community college in Texas stopped accepting perfectly healthy students of Nigerian and Liberian descent. Liberian immigrants who live in Texas are getting refused service at restaurants. There are a lot of comparisons being made to AIDS, the last scary disease to come out of Africa that gave rise to similar racial fears and stereotypes.
All of this xenophobia was relentlessly instilled into the minds of conservative voters by talk radio and other conservative demagogues in the media, month after month, year after year. And it has had an effect, According to this new poll by The Public Religion Research Institute:
Republicans are more likely to say … that immigrants burden the country as opposed to strengthen it (66% vs. 26%, respectively). Compared to a few years earlier, Americans report less tolerance when encountering immigrants who do not speak English. Nearly half (48%) of Americans agree that they are bothered when they come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English, compared to 40% in 2012. More than six in ten (63%) white working-class Americans say they feel bothered when they come into contact with immigrants who do not speak English, compared to 43% of white college-educated Americans.
Americans’ perceptions of Islam have turned more negative over the past few years. Today, a majority (56%) of Americans agree that the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, while roughly four in ten (41%) disagree. In 2011, Americans were divided in their views of Islam (47% agreed, 48% disagreed).
All those Americans are not Republicans. But most of them are. 
The GOP base was well primed for Donald Trump with his talk of immigrant rapists and border walls and rounding up “bad people.” If he didn’t exist, the right wing media would have had to invent him.

I go on to discuss the current congressional machinations which are interesting in terms of the presidential race. It's unknown whether they can keep up this level of paranoia, but they'll do everything they can . Right now, the refugee question provides a wonderful way for them to avoid having to address the truly difficult national security question while feeding their base the red meat it craves.It's possible that they can simply get away with saying "I'd bomb the shit out them" but one assumes that they'll have to have something more after a while. For now, this is scratching that xenophobic bloodlust itch just fine.

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