Rabat - On Monday night, Donald Trump delivered a foreign policy speech reiterating his call for a ban on Muslim immigration and highlighting the potential danger of Muslim-Americans.
Rabat – On Monday night, Donald Trump delivered a foreign policy speech reiterating his call for a ban on Muslim immigration and highlighting the potential danger of Muslim-Americans.
Relying heavily on fiery rhetoric, the presumptive Republican nominee’s speech was reminiscent of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s unabashed fear-mongering tactics in the 1950s.
Speaking at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, Trump blamed the tragedy of the Orlando shooting on Democratic immigration policies and encouraged America to wake up to the reality of “radical Islamic terrorism.” “It’s not just a national security issue,” he asserted, “It’s a quality of life issue… We need to tell the truth about how Radical Islam is coming to our shores.”
The truth, according to Trump, is that Democratic immigration policies permanently admitting “100,000 Muslim immigrants from the Middle East every year, and many more from Muslim countries outside the Middle East” have “imported” Islamic extremism into America.
According to Department of Homeland Security statistics, the United States permanently admitted slightly more than 61,500 immigrants from the Middle East annually between 2005 and 2014. Trump cited the Boston Marathon bombers, “large numbers” of Somali refugees in Minnesota that have tried to join ISIS (only nine men have been accused), the San Bernardino shooters, and Omar Mateen as examples of the potential perils of allowing Muslims to immigrate onto American soil.
“The bottom line,” Trump asserted, “is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here.” According to Trump, hundreds of immigrants have been charged with terrorist activities since 9/11.
If elected, Trump promises to use his executive authority to “suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.”
Trump failed to clearly differentiate between the tiny percentage of radicalized immigrants he was referencing and the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Muslims that have immigrated to America since 9/11. On the contrary, his speech seemed to insinuate that large numbers of potential Muslim immigrants adhere to extremist Islamic doctrines.
Claiming that “vast numbers” of Muslim immigrants reject American values, Trump contended: “We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as [the] savage [Orlando] killer… I don’t want them in our country.”
Trump also insinuated that American-Muslim community has been complicit in terror attacks, claiming that “Muslim communities must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad – and they do know where they are.”
Trump’s heated speech and his proposed policies regarding Muslim-Americans and Muslim immigrants mirror Senator Joseph McCarthy’s fear-mongering tactics against alleged Communists. McCarthy rose to the national spotlight in 1950 as Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and America heightened. American fear of the “red menace” of Communism during this period closely resembles the fear of radical Islam and terrorists today.
Enabled by the public’s paranoia about infiltration by Soviet spies, McCarthy began a nation-wide witch hunt for potential Communist sympathizers. His tactics targeted liberal State Department workers, Hollywood actors, individuals exercising their constitutional right to politically express communist views, and many individuals with no affiliation to the Communist party.
McCarthy’s policies led to widespread blacklisting in many industries and economic hardships for hundreds of thousands of Americans. In addition, he used intimidation tactics in court and convinced major companies to blacklist any employees that exercised their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Public anxiety and dissenters’ fear of being targeted allowed McCarthy to carry out a virtually invulnerable campaign for five years. However, he crossed a line in 1954 when he accused the army of harboring Communists. The public turned against him, and McCarthy’s reign is now considered a dark time in American history.
Although McCarthy’s policies contradicted America’s founding principles, many officials and civilians initially supported or passively watched his hunt for Communist sympathizers. Cold War expert Ellen Schrecker explains that many of these bystanders “were patriotic citizens who, however squeamish they may have been about the methods of McCarthy and the other investigators, agreed that communism threatened the United States and that the crisis engendered by the Cold War necessitated measures that might violate the rights of individuals.”
Like McCarthy, Donald Trump attempts to frame his proposed ban on Muslim immigration and discriminatory policies towards Muslim-Americans as necessary steps to prevent a major crisis. It is not surprising that there are striking parallels between their approaches, especially since Ron Cohn, McCarthy’s infamous top lawyer, mentored Trump for 13 years. Trump’s speeches themselves rely on the same logic and rhetoric about the enemies within America’s borders that McCarthy used in his ascent to the national spotlight 66 years ago.
1) The difference between “us” and “them” is moral.
McCarthy: “The great difference between our western Christian world and the atheistic Communist world is not political, gentlemen, it is moral.”
Trump: “Many of the principles of Radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions… Why does Hillary Clinton want to bring people here—in vast numbers—who reject our values?”
2) America and the “civilized world” is in a clash of civilizations with the enemy.
McCarthy: “This is a time when all the world is split into two vast, increasingly hostile armed camps… this is the time for the show-down between the democratic Christian world and the communistic atheistic world.”
Trump: “America must unite the whole civilized world in the fight against Islamic terrorism, just like we did against communism in the Cold War.”
3) America must face the realities to protect itself.
McCarthy: “Unless we face this fact, we shall pay the price that must be paid by those who wait too long.”
Trump: “If we don’t get tough, and we don’t get smart – and fast – we’re not going to have a country anymore — there will be nothing left.”
4) The real enemy is already inside our borders.
McCarthy: “When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be from enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within.”
Trump: “But Muslim communities [in America] must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad – and they do know where they are.”
When observing similarities between McCarthy and Trump, it is not illogical to fear that these two targeted attacks on the President and Abedin may be the first of many. As Islamophobia and paranoia sweeps the country, it is important to remember how McCarthy came to power and the damaging, lasting effects of his policies.
However, the lessons of McCarthyism provide hope that America can overcome Trump’s powerful ideology of exclusion before inflicting irreparable harm on the Muslim-American population, immigrant communities, and political discourse.