Readers Respond

TPM Readers respond to “Different Than Before” …From TPM Reader JR

Josh, re: your comments in “Different Than Before”:

The reason this 9/11 is so rancorous and politicized is because it’s only the second 9/11 in which the Republicans are out of power. They were out of power on September 11 last year, too, but at that time they were all attacking health care. Muslims are the preferred attack-object of 2010 because the midterms are coming, there’s a meta-message out there that Obama is a secret Muslim, so if Muslims are bad, then Obama must be bad. And 9/11 inevitably gets all wrapped up in this. It’s not much more complicated than that.

From TPM Reader GB …

I agree this year’s anniversary is much different than before. And I attribute it mostly to politics. Many on the right, and in the GOP, want to make a big issue out of the “war on terrorism”, stoking tribalist fears and rallying their base as an “us” fighting against a “them” it paints as bent on destroying American and its way of life.

Similar appeals to fear of outsiders have been common in politics for generations, both here and abroad. And especially now for the GOP, which has no real plan to deal with the economy, talking about mosques and lack of respect for 9/11 dead gives them some issue to try to run on. In surveys of adults, congressional Republicans have even lower approval than congressional Democrats. But what counts more, especially in an off-year election, is enthusiasm. Who will show up to vote? That’s what this is about: firing up the 25% base who stuck with W. Bush through thick and thin. And portraying Democrats as weak, both unwilling and unable to defend America from the grave threats it faces.

The more media focus on such issues as Quran burners or community centers built by Muslims, the less serious attention will be paid to the economy, where shrewd Republicans would rightly be afraid of being pressed on how they would revive the economy. It’s not that the Democrats have done well, but it’s that Republicans really don’t seem to know what to do, other than cut taxes and pray. And that simply may not
be enough. So we need to rally around an enemy, and Muslims, er, terrorists, will serve that purpose just fine.

From TPM Reader MR

I think the Far Right/Republicans truly believe 9/11 belongs to them, plain and simple. We’re in an overheated election year environment and, in those times, people trot out their best stuff to motivate their side. That’s why we have an emphasis on 9/11 this year, along with Moslem-baiting, etc. No rocket science here!

From TPM Reader TS

I’m sure you’ve gotten countless responses along the same lines, but it’s clear to me that a few related things are at play here:

1. We are in the midst of a very severe unemployment crisis and continuing economic stagnation. In times of economic hardship, anger and xenophobia rise as minority groups are increasingly seen as competition for resources by those who have seen their standard of living suffer. Generally, those who have the most hostile attitude come from the middle/lower economic classes and tend to have a lower level of education.

2. For the first time since 2001, we have a Democratic president, and one who has been somewhat successfully “otherized” by right-wing media and politicians to the point where a sizable percentage of people believe him to be Muslim, or socialist, or Kenyan, which he is not.

3. It is an election year–more specifically, an election year where a winning strategy for Republicans is to mobilize and channel the anger and resentment of voters. To do this, it’s convenient to leverage the xenophobia and insecurity of white Republican voters. One unfortunately successful strategy has been to stir up and encourage hatred towards Islam and, by extension, Muslims.

I think the combination of these three things has led to the distinct and disturbing shift that you’ve noticed.