Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Blog

One of the many ways we are ghting intolerance is by holding public of cials accountable for the rhetoric they espouse. The Arab American Institute’s “Leadership or Pandering” series examines statements made by policymakers and candidates as they address divisive issues that provide clear opportunities to stand against bigotry. Though not comprehensive, and while no of cial can be judged fairly by any single action or statement, we hope that it will provide a useful look at the debate and its participants.

This edition of “Leadership or Pandering” examines xenophobia and the 2016 presidential primary through December 2015. While rhetoric tends to become more polarizing during election cycles, public dialogue was saturated with in ammatory rhetoric following the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California.

In the wake of these attacks many of our elected of cials, policymakers, and candidates exploited an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty by equating a humanitarian crisis with national security issues. Some of our public of cials used mischaracterizations of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and cast blanket suspicion on entire communities. Some presidential candidates contributed to in ammatory rhetoric by saying they would not advocate for an American Muslim being President of the United States, others called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

On the other hand, numerous leaders spoke out against fear-mongering and bigotry in the weeks following the attacks. Many made impassioned arguments for tolerance, and worked to uphold the American tradition of welcoming refugees.

We believe these times of heightened public sensitivities provide clear opportunities for public of cials to demonstrate either leadership or pandering.

This edition of “Leadership or Pandering” is divided into two sections. Section I examines the rhetoric provided by the 2016 presidential primary candidates regarding Arab Americans, American Muslims, and refugees. Section II focuses exclusively on members of Congress, Governors, and other elected of cials that have contributed to the national dialogue.

We hope this guide serves as an effective means for you to judge the statements by your own elected of cials and candidates and hold them accountable for their rhetoric during such trying times. 

View: Leadership or Pandering: Grading our Elected Officials (2015)