After QAnon conspiracy theory supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene won a Republican primary last week, primary voters just nominated another fringe character to be the GOP nominee in a congressional race in November.
Self-declared Islamophobe, conspiracy theorist, and internet personality Laura Loomer won the GOP nomination in Florida’s 21st Congressional District and promptly received praise from President Trump and Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida.
It’s a D+9 district, and incumbent Lois Frankel is seeking reelection, so Loomer is up against long odds. However, in a six-candidate primary, Florida Republicans selected the candidate who buys into conspiracies about the Parkland school shooting and the Las Vegas mass shooting.
Having a conspiracy theorist in Congress would be a national security threat in itself because that’s the type of person who could fall for propaganda. However, Loomer’s victory demonstrates another problem: The GOP should be courting Muslims, not pushing them away.
This wouldn’t require the GOP to have some massive policy and rhetorical makeover. The easiest thing they could do is stop electing people who either hate Muslims or make anti-Muslim remarks, and when elected officials do so, they deserve condemnation.
It’s easy to find a barrage of anti-Muslim comments from sitting Republican lawmakers and GOP candidates over the years, including war hawk New York Rep. Peter King saying that Muslims aren’t American when it comes to war; former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh (now a Never Trumper) calling President Barack Obama a “Muslim,” “traitor,” and “enemy;” Iowa Rep. Steve King saying that Muslims should not work in pork plants in his district; and former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann saying that the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the federal government.
It’s hard to expect Muslims to support people who they feel hated by, the same way many white voters don’t care for politicians who support anti-white affirmative action policies. The same could also be said for Catholics who should be repulsed by bigots such as Sen. Maizie Hirono and Joe Biden’s running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris, who don’t want practicing Catholics to hold public office.
The GOP has potential to win over Muslims voters. In 2000, before the War on Terror, George W. Bush’s campaign saw a group that was socially conservative and owned small businesses and made their pitch. There are indications that they won the Muslim vote overall and won it overwhelmingly in Florida. An exit poll from CAIR in 2000 showed Bush won more than 70% of the Muslim vote. Grover Norquist credited Muslim voters with winning the election for Bush in Florida. Compare that to 2016 where Hillary Clinton won three-quarters of the Muslim vote.
The Muslim community has some shared values with the Christian Right. The religious Muslim community opposes pornography, gambling, alcohol (many evangelicals don’t drink), usury, and at least some abortion. In Massachusetts, for example, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith leaders have come together in opposition to casino expansion, understanding the harm casinos do to communities.
It’s likely that most religious Muslims aren’t huge fans of the war on terror and want peace and stability in the Middle East. Recently, it’s Democrats that have opposed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and northern Syria. Muslims also probably don’t want progressivism forced on them — a Muslim baker shouldn’t have to bake the cake either.
This doesn’t mean the GOP needs to change their policies and start opposing Israel or accept every single refugee application. If they ditch anti-Muslim rhetoric, the case largely makes itself. Republicans need every vote they can get if they don’t want to hand the country over to Democratic Party rule. Courting Muslim voters will help — not to mention the party risks losing longtime voters if it becomes dominated by fringe conspiracy-theorist figures.
Tom Joyce (@TomJoyceSports) is a freelance writer who has been published with USA Today, the Boston Globe, Newsday, ESPN, the Detroit Free Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Federalist, and a number of other media outlets.