Number Two, which if you think Number One was mindblowing, um:
In the 2000 election, approximately 70% of Muslims in America voted for Bush; among non-African-American Muslims, the ratio was over 80%.
Four years later, Bush’s share of the vote among Muslims was 4%.
That’s from a very long, absolutely extraordinary post by Rany Jazayerli, “The GOP and Me.” A brief introduction to Jazayerli: he’s a Chicagoland dermatologist, yet another great Baseball Prospectus writer who’s Internet-famous for his dogged coverage of his beloved, always-frustrating Kansas City Royals, the son of a Syrian immigrant, and a Muslim. It’s a very long post about why his dad was a Republican (like a non-trivial number of immigrants from totalitarian states), why he was a Republican (he was one of the 80-plus percent who voted for Bush in 2000), and the difficult, almost insurmountable issues Republican-leaning Muslims have faced in being Republicans over the past decade. Very specifically over the past decade.
Many are patently obvious, like the party’s response to 9/11, and the Iraq War—the latter of which Jazayerli supported, though he admits he was wrong about how wrong it had the possibility of going. Some will be more familiar to Chicagoans, who are likely familiar with the flashpoints over suburban mosques going up among the fast-growing Muslim communities in the suburbs, especially the southwest suburbs:
It hasn’t been much different here in the Chicago suburbs where I live. My own mosque, that started congregating out of converted space in an office park a decade ago, spent over two years attempting to win zoning approval to build a formal house of worship on land that we purchased next to a Greek Orthodox church and a Buddhist temple. The resistance that we got from the Republican-controlled county zoning board was so intense that it was covered by the New York Times, and eventually the Chicago Tribune had to publish an editorial defending our right to build a mosque.
You might remember this guy, too; he lost an election last night:
The Sikh massacre was on a Sunday, the mosque burning was on Monday. On Wednesday Congressman Joe Walsh – a Republican who represents a district here in suburban Chicago – spoke at a town hall meeting about the threat of radical Muslims. “One thing I’m sure of is that there are people in this country – there is a radical strain of Islam in this country – it’s not just over there – trying to kill Americans every week. It is a real threat, and it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11.”
Walsh made his comments on a Wednesday. On Friday, shots were fired at a mosque in Morton Grove, a suburb not far from where Walsh spoke. A nearby resident named David Conrad was arrested. On Sunday, a homemade acid bomb was thrown at a Muslim school in the suburb of Lombard, while worshippers were praying inside. No one was arrested for that one.
Congressman Walsh stood by his comments. Meanwhile, my local mosque had to hire private security to watch our back for the remainder of the month of Ramadan.
There’s so, so much more there, but what stood out for me is the respect Jazayerli had for George W. Bush’s initial reaction to 9/11: “In the chaos and hysteria that accompanied the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush’s speech was deeply reassuring to American Muslims that whatever the fallout of the attacks would be on our community, the federal government was on our side.”
As Jazayerli goes on to describe, the federal government would not turn out to be on their side. (He wrote more at the time for a pre-New York Times FiveThirtyEight, and adapted it for This American Life.) But he does acknowledge that, as terrible as things became, the GOP at least had a glimmering of a realization that not only the federal government should be on the side of American Muslims, it was in the best interest of the GOP as well. Not just because Muslims were a “pillar of support” for the GOP in the 1980s and 1990s, but that they were a pretty good fit with the vaunted “values voters” that dominated the largely Christian social-conservative aspect of the party.
When George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, he tried hard, and with some success, at courting the Latino vote as well. But it started well before then, when he was running for governor of Texas:
El Paso’s congressman, Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat, says Bush has “reached out very effectively to our constituency. On issues like bilingual education and immigration, he is very moderate.”
Bush has pointedly refused to sign on to his party’s immigrant-bashing agenda. He opposed [California governor Pete] Wilson over Proposition 187, which withdrew health and public education benefits from illegal immigrants and their children in California.
He’s a strong supporter of Mexico, and he says his warm relations with that country’s leaders have helped him with Hispanic voters. “I’ve talked to a lot of friends who’ll go down to Mexico and they’ll come back and say, ‘God, Bush, you’re really popular in Mexico City,’ ” he says.
Bush gives qualified support to bilingual education, which Wilson and Republican conservatives in Congress have attempted to outlaw. Bilingual education is fine, Bush says, as long as students can pass the state tests he is promoting.
Bush is a vocal opponent of conservative Republican efforts to make English the official language, calling that “a powerful negative message” that repels Hispanic voters.
In the 2012 campaign, Bush was nowhere to be found—not just physically but rhetorically. Despite being a two-term president, his tenure terminated with such unpopularity that he’s persona non grata, and will continue to be, unlike his predecessor, whose lengthy orations will always be welcome at the DNC. Stranger things have happened, such as the legitimately disgraced Richard Nixon’s re-emergence as a statesman, so I won’t exactly count him out. Until then, there are things the GOP could learn from Bush, as a campaigner if not as a president. It’s that, or watch their base narrow down and die off.
Photograph: The White House