The GOP front-runner ignites a firestorm of controversy over his offensive—and unconstitutional—policy proposal.
Image via (cc) Flickr user Gage Skidmore
For a candidate running a presidential campaign punctuated with offensive flash points, Donald Trump seems to have hit a new low this week by calling for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States. Forget the fact that Trump’s proposal is almost certainly unconstitutional. Forget the fact that it’s based on highly questionable polling data from an organization headed by a man the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Forget, even, the fact that Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry is simply the latest in a career’s worth of increasingly outrageous offensive statements seemingly designed specifically to keep the tycoon-cum-candidate securely in the spotlight, and to hell with the collateral damage. (From Trump’s 1987 memoir, The Art of the Deal: “if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.”)
Instead, keep in mind that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim entry to the United States does not exist entirely in an isolated bubble. Consider, for instance, Jeb Bush’s insistence that the United States focus specifically on aiding the Christian refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war, or Rand Paul’s push to end immigration from the Middle East altogether. Yes, Trump’s Islamophobia is crass and shocking, but it’s not, altogether, an out-of-left-field surprise. In fact, among some Trump supporters, banning Muslims from the United States is, by early indications, a wildly popular proposal—a sentiment echoed among white supremacists online.
The mood outside Trumpland, however, is a different story.
In the wake of Trump’s call to close the United States’ borders to Muslims, condemnation of the candidate and his plan has rained down fast and furious.
“The U.S. is a strong nation when we stand together,” Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted to Trump. “We are weak when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.” And in an email to supporters, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign vice chair, Huma Abedin, wrote, “I'm a proud Muslim—but you don't have to share my faith to share my disgust. Trump wants to literally write racism into our law books.”
The comments also generated strident outcry from fellow candidates within Trump’s party, with Jeb Bush calling him “unhinged” and Lindsey Graham pivoting on Trump’s campaign slogan, telling CNN: “You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” Even former Vice President Dick Cheney weighed in while speaking with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, saying: “I think this whole notion that somehow we need to say no more Muslims and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in. I mean religious freedom’s been a very important part of our, our history.”
Meanwhile, Democrat Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, took a page out of Trump’s playbook to voice his criticism of the proposed policy:
Via Twitter / @kriseman
“You make a ridiculous statement, so you answer with a ridiculous statement,” Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times. “There are some people who thought I was seriously going to ban Donald Trump from St. Petersburg, and that's obviously not something I would try to do. But his statement was kind of ridiculous, so I thought that it deserved an equal response.”
Condemnation of Trump has come from outside the Washington echo chamber as well. In response to a BBC report that people had begun comparing the candidate to villainous wizard Lord Voldemort in light of his anti-Muslim proposal, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted simply: “How horrible. Voldemort was nowhere near as bad.”
And this morning, readers of the Philadelphia Daily News found this no-punches-pulled image on the cover of their paper of choice:
Image via Twitter / @ankaman616
Throughout all this, however, Trump has—as he always seems to do—refused to back down from his incendiary remarks. When faced with the growing chorus of condemnation for his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, the current GOP presidential front-runner replied simply: