CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept. 21, 2015 – “Muslims” and “Conservative.” These two words are bouncing around the campaign trail these days and they raise some interesting questions.
As the interminable presidential campaign rolls on with the next election still more than a year away, we have already had two debates while being bombarded daily with new polling data that won’t be relevant tomorrow, much less next November.
Let’s take “Muslim” first. We hear it every day. In fact, these days it is an hourly occurrence. But just because we hear it, have we ever really thought about the context of that word?
Whenever there is a terrorist incident that merits national or international coverage, the first thing the media does is say something like “we emphasize that not all Muslims are terrorists.”
Barack Obama still refuses to use the words “Muslim extremists.” In fact, the president has gone out of his way for months to remind us that Islam is a “religion of peace.” That message is so ingrained in Mr. Obama’s psyche that no one in his administration is allowed to say otherwise.
Therefore, according to Barack Obama and the mainstream media at least, all Muslims are very nice people who are merely misunderstood. Muslims are the “salt of the earth.”
Why then, when someone in the audience at a Donald Trump rally last Friday called Barack Obama a “Muslim,” did it set off a firestorm of controversy?
If being a Muslim is totally acceptable, as reported by the press and as expressed by Barack Obama, then calling the president a Muslim, by definition, is a compliment, not a derogatory statement. The media should have been thrilled.
Either being Muslim is good or it is not. If, as it is portrayed by the press and by political correctness, most Muslims are fine upstanding people, then there is no reason the president, or anyone else, should be offended.
It speaks volumes about the meaning of the word “Muslim” that it resulted in such a negative response. Whether the media admits it or not, the very fact that the question was so controversial is an indication that journalists themselves feel the same way about the word as everyone else and the connotation is negative.
No amount of media sugar-coating or presidential mumbo-jumbo will change it.
Though Trump probably could have handled the situation better, it should also be mentioned that the words were not his own, but those of someone in his audience. Hindsight is wonderful when it comes to being critical of someone else. However, coming up with the perfect squelch in any spontaneous situation is not as simple as it appears in retrospect.
How often have you chastised yourself for what you did not say after thinking over an incident in which you did not respond the way you would have liked?
If Trump was guilty of anything, he should have appeared in Greenville, S.C. the following evening with his fellow candidates rather than pulling out.
He also waited too long to give a response that he “is not responsible for answering for the president.” It was the correct retort, but the interim between the Muslim question and Trump’s reply gave the impression he was working out his “Trumpian” follow up instead of swinging from the hip in his typical style.
The other popular word associated with Donald Trump is “conservative.” Jeb Bush has been particularly fond of saying that Trump is not a “true conservative.” The question is, What exactly does that mean?
Forget about whether the New York billionaire will win the presidency. The important thing for the moment is that something he is saying and doing is resonating with millions of potential voters.
The Republicans received a tidal wave of support in the 2014 elections, and thus far they have done nothing to earn the voters’ trust. What Donald Trump has done is expose the Republican party as little more than Washington insider clones of their Democratic opponents.
Americans wanted something done about Barack Obama’s administrative tactics, and they gave the Republicans the opportunity to take the president to task. Instead they squandered the landslide mandate of support.
Whether Donald Trump can deliver on his promises remains to be seen. What the American public sees for the moment is a man of action. Even if what he does is wrong, most Americans believe Trump will, at the very least, do something.
In that sense, what difference does it make whether Donald Trump is a “true conservative” or a Martian? We, the people, are tired of empty rhetoric and lie after lie after lie. If American believe Donald Trump can deliver that resource, they could care less about his political leanings, his billion-dollar bank account, his abundant ego or his outlandish hair.
Labels mean little. If John Boehner or Mitch McConnell are “true conservatives,” then the American people will rebel against that philosophy just as heartily as they voted against Barack Obama’s policies.
Politics is, and has always has been, a game of words. In 2015, however, two words that no longer seem to mean what we think they mean are changing the dynamics of Washington.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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