Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Muslim Vote in 2008

The Muslim Vote in 2008
Nausherwan Hafeez, 2-4-08, Op-Ed

The Muslim vote in Florida could very well determine who will become the next President of the United States. President George W. Bush won the infamous 2000 Presidential elections in part because of overwhelming support from the Muslim community in Florida. In an election that was won by less than 100 votes, the Muslim swing voters gave Bush the election. Bush appealed to Muslim voters largely because of his social conservatism and promises to protect civil liberties. Since Bush clearly did not live up to his campaign promises and instead launched attacks across the Muslim world, the vast majority of Muslim voters turned to John Kerry in 2004. So where does the Muslim vote look like it is headed this year and what are the key issues that Muslims care about?

The Muslim vote appears to be headed towards the Democratic Party. In this current election, the two top priorities for Muslim voters are foreign policy and protection of civil liberties. With the primary season in full swing, a closer look at both party’s candidates and platforms indicates why the Muslim vote will be go to the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2008.

The GOP candidates for President have largely attacked Muslims and their interests throughout this campaign season. Rudy Giuliani has complained that the Democratic candidates, “never mentioned the word ‘Islamic terrorist,’ or ‘Islamic extremist’”. Why the Democrats have not resorted to this strategy is obvious: labeling a religion as having tendencies towards terrorism is completely baseless and shameful politicking. This sort of Islamophobia has had a blowback effect on many GOP candidates, and has been one cause of why Rudy Giuliani and Tom Tancredo have been forced out of the race. Mitt Romney has been criticized by civil rights group for his stated objective to double the size of Guantanamo Bay. John McCain, the current front-runner, responded to an inquiry about what should be done about Iran by stating, “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys song Barbara Ann. Attacks against the religion and threatening future attacks against Muslim countries is a self-defeating strategy that will ensure that the Muslim vote does not go to the Republican nominee.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have shown more sensibility towards the concerns of Muslim voters. Barack Obama has shown particular strength in galvanizing Muslim support due to his emphasis on a balanced foreign policy that relies upon engagement rather than the threatened use of force. Obama has said he would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders to discuss their nuclear program without conditions attached. His emphasis on diplomacy and multilateralism makes him the ideal candidate for Muslim voters on foreign policy. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has shown a hawkish tendency by both voting to authorize the war in Iraq and for voting in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment
targeting Iran, which called for the United States to declare the largest branch of Iran’s armed services a terrorist organization. This vote, which has been harshly criticized by Obama, has been interpreted by many political observers as providing the Bush administration with a rationale for going to war with Iran. In terms of civil liberties, both Clinton and Obama have indicated a willingness to change the Patriot Act to correct some of its most egregious abuses.

It appears likely that regardless of who the Democrats end up nominating, they will get the Muslim vote. The Democrats have been more responsive to Muslim concerns about a balanced foreign policy, protection of civil liberties, and because of Republican Islamophobia. Democrats will likely have a greater chance of winning the general election especially because of the Muslim vote in the key swing state of Florida.

No comments: