On Wednesday, GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke at a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol to protest President Obama’s proposed Iran nuclear deal. They were joined–in person, and in their overblown, apocalyptic rhetoric–by some familiar faces from the organized anti-Muslim movement.
But don’t worry. Yours truly was there keeping tabs on nativist leaders and their racist talking points, so you didn’t have to go to know what happened.
Donald Trump spoke without much delay, mounting the podium to the R.E.M. song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” R.E.M. made headlines opposing Trump’s use of their song. On the other hand, we simply wondered if the song was intended to make us ponder the hastening of the end of the world (perhaps in the form of nuclear apocalypse?) that might result from Trump’s brand of hate and xenophobia being transferred to international diplomacy.
While criticizing the Iran nuclear deal in strong terms, Trump trotted out some of his usual lines about this country’s leadership, “We are led by very very stupid people. Very very stupid people.” He characterized the deal as a loss for the American people and then added, in his usual simplistic terms, “We will have so much winning when I get elected that you may get bored with winning.”
Since Trump launched his campaign, he has served as a mouthpiece of the anti-immigrant movement, spreading hate and nativist sentiment that has garnered the support of white nationalists, and sometimes even inspired violence.
Sen. Cruz was much more explicit in promoting Islamophobia at the rally. He said, “If [the Iran nuclear deal] goes through, there will be three consequences. Number one, the Obama Administration will become quite literally the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism. If it goes through, over $100 billion will flow directly to the Ayatollah Khomeini to radical Islamic terrorists across the world and those jihadists will use those billions to murder Americans, to murder Israelis, to murder Europeans.”
Cruz seems to have no doubt about which lives he values– and he does not include people of color who are victims of terrorism in their home countries, or who are forced to flee violence only to become refugees refused safe harbor in countries like the U.S.
Although most speakers at the rally did not stray far from their talking points on the specifics of the Iran nuclear deal, the rally gained support from disturbing quarters. The event was co-sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots, a nativist group that opportunistical
Of course, the anti-Muslim movement wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to capitalize on rampant Islamophobia or to connect with key political leaders. The rally was co-sponsored by the Center for Security Policy, a far-right think tank that functions as a cornerstone of the organized anti-Muslim movement. The Center’s founder, conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, spoke at the rally. Gaffney has previously said, “I don’t believe there is such a thing as a moderate Islamist party. The challenge with Islamists is that they seek to impose what they call Sharia on everybody, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.”
Brigitte Gabriel, co-founder and president of grassroots anti-Muslim group ACT! for America, spoke near the end of the rally when the crowd had significantly thinned. Gabriel is a primary source of anti-Muslim fear-mongering in the U.S., and uses her organization as a vehicle to promote these views. She has written that “violent jihad” and “stealth cultural jihad” will both result in “the advance and imposition of Islamic Sharia law throughout the world.”
At the rally, Gabriel said, “President Obama, [our founding fathers and great generals] are all rolling in their graves in shame that America is represented by you, a weakling, a coward, and an incompetent.”
Trump, Cruz, Gabriel, and Gaffney all promote dangerous and virulent strands of nativism, and their continued efforts to work together to hawk nativist, anti-Muslim messages are truly threatening to Americans’ safety and freedoms.
Lindsay Schubiner is the Senior Policy Manager at the Center for New Community.
Photo credits: Imagine2050 Staff