Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
June 22, 2012
Both the liberal Huffington Post and the conservative Blaze are speculating that Muslim-Americans may desert President Obama at the polls this fall.
Both note that polls have showed that Muslim-Americans overwhelmingly supported Obama’s election in 2008.
But the Huffington Post said that might change this year because many of Obama’s promises “have been left unmet. Nearly four years later, Guantanamo remains open, and just last year the president signed into law a four-year renewal of some of the Patriot Act’s most controversial provisions. And in some instances, administration policy has alienated the Muslim-American community. The continued drone strikes in Pakistan and revelations about Obama’s secret ‘kill list’ of terrorist targets are among the list of policies that have caused some Muslims to rethink whether they will vote for Obama again this fall.”
The Blaze, which was started by former Fox News commentator Glenn Beck as an alternative to “mainstream media outlets,” which Beck says are “distorting facts to fit rigid agendas,” commented: “Muslim Americans overwhelmingly backed the president’s first presidential candidacy, but 2008 is looking quite different from 2012, as the growing cohort seems increasingly disconnected and confused regarding where it stands on the Democratic incumbent.”
The Blaze noted that the American Muslim Taskforce (AMT), a coalition of 13 Muslim organizations in the US, has not yet come out and endorsed Obama this year, despite doing so in 2008.
Naeem Baig, who chairs the AMT, said, “This year there are many issues that are of great concern. Looking at the last four years of President Obama, especially concerning civil rights, a good number of people are asking, why should we support the president when he did not deliver on many of the promises he made?”
Does that mean the AMT might endorse Mitt Romney? Baig spoke of a third-party option as a possibility. In the past a lot of Muslim-Americans supported the Green Party, especially when its presidential candidate was Ralph Nader, an Arab-American, albeit a Lebanese Christian.
Baig did have nice things to say about Romney. “He took on a much lighter tone in the [GOP primary] debates and made it clear that people of all faiths are welcome in this country. Coming from a religious minority himself, Romney could open up and meet with Muslims to try and undo some of his party’s damage in isolating, even shunning, the community.”
According to polls, Muslims have never been in any one party’s pocket–but have trended Democratic lately. In 1996, Muslims heavily supported Nader. In 2000, they went overwhelmingly for George W. Bush, the first–and so far only–major party candidate to actively seek the Muslim vote by visiting mosques and speaking to Islamic groups.
But in 2004, after the invasion of Iraq, Muslims went strongly for Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry. In 2008, they stuck with the Democratic party and backed Obama, perhaps in part because his father was a Muslim.
American Muslims constitute only a small percentage of the national population, but they are concentrated in key swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida.
That makes it unlikely that either party will want to offend Muslims. But that doesn’t mean either will actively campaign for Muslim votes. Muslims are seen as threatening to many in the GOP, so Romney will likely keep his distance. And Obama is bedeviled still by the rumor that he is secretly a Muslim, so he will not want to be photographed stepping inside a mosque, unlike Bush in his 2000 campaign.