Republicans must rein in the dangerous rhetoric being spouted by Donald Trump
On the question of ‘radical Islam’, it is the reasoning of Barack Obama that makes more sense than that of America’s would-be next president
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has seized on the Orlando massacre to escalate his inflammatory rhetoric, prompting President Barack Obama to issue his most powerful rebuke yet. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has echoed Obama’s points. The debate is polarised between America’s democratic ideals and compromising them for security. Americans already know where the nominees stand. What they need to know is whether Trump’s party stands behind his proposal for treating all Muslims as security threats with migration bans and surveillance.
It is far from clear. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the senior elected Republican, has said Trump’s proposal is neither in the country’s interests nor a reflection of his party’s principles. The Trump-Obama exchange has exposed the issues of the balance of sentiment in the Republican Party and, ultimately, where the US stands. America must declare a position on questions affecting religious minorities that go to the heart of its values. Trump’s proposals are a dangerous line to be taking into an election and, if mishandled, could haunt American democracy.
Trump clearly thinks his rhetoric reflects the views of a lot of Americans, millions of whom supported him in party primaries. It is therefore important that the implications be spelled out very clearly to the electorate. It is not hard to imagine how the Muslim world would react to such treatment of its followers in the US. The Republican Party’s ranks may be divided – and muted – by personal electoral agendas. But this goes beyond politics to the national interest and global stability.
Obama addressed the persistent accusation that by avoiding the label “radical Islam”, he is in some way giving in to terrorism. He said reciting these words would play into the wish of groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda to portray themselves as the true leaders of more than a billion Muslims “who reject their crazy notions”.
He is making more sense than Trump , who should be counselled by senior members of his party before the tolerance fundamental to democracy becomes a casualty of ugly populism.