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Friday September 28, 2012

How Will the “Hate Caucus” Fare in this Election?

Posted by Frank Matt at 3:59 pm

AAI is continuously tracking key congressional races across the country. One trend AAI is tracking closely is whether or not the electoral tide will turn against candidates who espouse hate speech and Islamophobia. With just over a month until the election, it appears as though many of Congress’s most notorious Islamophobes stand a good chance of losing their seats and that several challengers who have turned to bigoted rhetoric are unlikely to be elected.

Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve King (R-IA), and Allen West (R-FL) have used bombastic bigotry to garner national fame and enormous campaign war chests from nationwide donations. Each of their reelections was once thought to be a forgone conclusion. Recent polls, however, reveal that each of these incumbents stands a real chance of being unseated.

Despite her national stardom and a multi-million dollar campaign fund, Rep. Michele Bachmann’s reelection bid is in serious trouble. A poll released earlier this month shows her lead over Democratic challenger Jim Graves has evaporated to within the margin of error. Independent voters have swung against her by nearly 20 points in just two months, from a 4 percent advantage to a 15 point disadvantage. The poll, conducted by Democratic pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner at the behest of Democrat Jim Graves’ campaign and shared with Salon.com, shows that Bachmann’s favorability rating has taken a nosedive since their last survey in mid-June, and finds Graves gaining ground with independents as his name recognition grows. The reaction to Bachmann’s latest ad is further evidence that opinion has turned against her Islamophobic tactics. Her ad targets Graves’ criticism of her bigoted witch-hunt against American Muslim public servants. Instead of raising money for Bachmann, the advertisement ended up helping Graves. The Daily Kos selected the ad for a weekly feature that asks readers to help raise money for the targets of conservative attack ads, and wound up pulling in close to $8,000.

Allen West and Steve King also stand reasonable chances of losing their reelection bids. Despite moving to a more conservative district, Allen West is in a statistical tie with his opponent, Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy. Two separate polls place Democrat Christie Vilsack within the margin of error of Republican incumbent Steve King. While extreme rhetoric from both Representatives has gained them donations, both have seen their favorability ratings in their own districts decline due to the same rhetoric. While none of the challengers to West, King, or Bachmann have opened up a lead, the fact that they’ve turned once inevitable reelections into toss-ups represents a significant pushback against their brand of intolerance.

New challengers in high profile races who have turned to Islamophobia are not fairing any better than incumbents. Republican Adam Hasner, a former Florida House Majority Leader, has been involved in a “long-time crusade against the supposed threat of Sharia in the U.S.” He has appeared on panels with the likes of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and Frank Gaffney, and invited Dutch politician and international celebrity Islamophobe Geert Wilders to Florida. Despite high-profile Republican support for his candidacy, formidable fundraising, and an early lead, Hasner is now trailing his opponent, Democrat Lois Frankel.

Early excitement was generated about the candidacy of Gabriela Mercer, a Republican from Arizona’s 7th district, who became a Tea Party favorite in part because of her Islamophobic and anti-Arab rhetoric. Ms. Mercer recently made this statement in an interview:

If you know Middle Easterners, a lot of them, they look Mexican or they look like a lot of people in South America: dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes. And they mix, they mix in. And those people, their only goal in life is to cause harm to the United States. So why do we want them here, either legally or illegally?

Her comments stand a good chance of being her undoing as a candidate. Both her Democratic and Libertarian opponents have aggressively criticized her bigoted remarks and her lead has since dissolved.

There is still over a month until the election, which makes it all the more important to take action in one or more of these races. The defeat of the Congress’s “hate caucus” and the failure of new candidates to get elected on Islamophobic platforms would send a powerful message that Americans do not tolerate bigotry from their elected officials. 

Tagged as Issues, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, Posted by Frank Matt

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