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This being an election year, Republicans have gone wild. Again.

In what is an amazingly effective strategy for them, they are demonizing people. Again. This worked in Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” against the African-Americans. This worked when Carl Rove designed to put amendments against same-sex marriage on the ballots in many states as Bush was running for re-election. They tried to get the same strategy to work in 2008 by putting Proposition 8 on the ballot in California.

This year, they started early, striking out against Latinos. The adoption of Arizona’s SB 1070 law was accompanied by incredibly degrading statements against undocumented immigrants. We were told that these immigrants were drug pushers and murderers who were stealing jobs from out of work real Americans. Then, someone in the Republican camp must have had a rational thought.

Nixon’s strategy, while effective for his purposes, drove the African-American votes from the party of Lincoln into the Democratic camp. African-Americans now vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. The first two African-American senators, Hiram Rhodes Revels (1870-1871) and Blanche Bruce (1875-1881), were both Republicans. The last Republican African-American senator, Edward Brooke, III, left office in 1979. All the first African-American representatives were Republican. The last Republican African-American representative, J. C. Watts, left office in 2003. The Republican members of congress, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, are now uniformly white.

Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S. The SB 1070 strategy of demonizing undocumented immigrants, the overwhelming majority of whom happen to be Latino, threatened to do what Nixon’s strategy did — provide a short-term gain but the set the party up for long-term failure. Another target had to be found.

(Gays, while promising as the eternal whipping-boy, were out. The current issues are marriage and service in the military. It’s hard to demonize a group that is fighting for domestic stability and the right to die fighting for the country. Those old photos from the 1970s gay pride events and those showing “girly-men” don’t work so well when the predominate images are of families and members of the uniformed service.)

Who else could it be? Ah! The Muslims.

Hence, was born this totally artificial debate over the “mosque at ground zero.” On the face of it, the argument is ridiculous. The building isn’t a mosque. While Ground Zero can be argued to be “hallowed ground,” as Lincoln so designated Gettysburg, the range of businesses near to ground zero, including a strip club, a hair restoration clinic and a horse betting parlor, belies the designation of a “hallowed neighborhood.” The constitution clearly provides religions freedom from government interference.

But, these arguments don’t matter. The striking-out at Muslims is not meant to be rational. They are simply the latest in a long string of scapegoats. They are different. As the African-Americans and gays are different, and, for that matter, as were the Japanese-Americans were during World War II when they were shipped off to concentration camps in the desert. The Italian, German and Irish grandparents and great-grandparents of this mob were once the different ones. But now, they are now in power and are looking for someone else to demonize. They see their power waning, and this frightens them. They could, once again, be the different ones, and they know what happens to those who are different. They know what they do to those who are different.

So, what can we do? We can’t fight irrationality with rational argument, much as we might like to try. One thing might be to try and ignore them, but that strategy didn’t work so well in Germany in the 1930s. If we somehow win the argument about the mosque, they will simply use their fallback strategy of going back after the immigrants or gays.

No, this type of modern lynch mob can only be stopped by shame.

In today’s entry in the blog Band of Thebes, the author quotes Bayard Rustin in his 1986 essay From Montgomery to Stonewall. In it, Rustin says, with regard to gay rights:

There are four burdens, which gays, along with every other despised group, whether it’s blacks follow slavery and reconstruction, or Jews fearful of Germany, must address. The first is recognize one must overcome fear. The second is overcoming self-hate. The third is overcoming self-denial. The fourth is more political. It is to recognize that the job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.

That also should be our objective in today’s fight against the Republican mob: To control the extent to which people can publicly manifest anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-those-who-are-different sentiment. It took forever the the civil rights movement. It is taking forever in the gay movement. We have our work cut out for us in the immigration debate and in the Muslim debate, but it is time to get started.

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