Sunday, August 26, 2007

Savvy Politicians

The Washington Post reported on efforts by some Virginia politicians to appeal to the votes of Muslim-Americans. I think some of them may need to work on their pitch. Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R), for example, took this route:
"I stand with you," he shouted. But he drew scattered boos when he demanded to know whether those in the crowd "come in peace" and whether they pledge allegiance to the United States.

Are you serious? Put aside whether the question is appropriate (it isn't), he's doing that at a rally designed to appeal to Muslim voters? That's like giving a speech at a GLAAD event and demanding to know how many audience members have molested children.

The irony is that, as is elucidated in the comments here, Muslims are in a very real sense a natural GOP constituency. They're rather socially conservative with a distaste for the welfare state. But the actions of the national party over the past few years has driven them en masse into the Democratic camp. Interestingly, this has given the opportunity for some genuinely progressive Muslim voices, like Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to gain more exposure, which could help solidify the Democrat's hold over the demographic.

The article claims that Maryland State Delegate Saqib Ali (D-Montgomery) delivered a stinging rebuke to Mr. Delgaudio. Ali is the first Muslim elected to state or district-wide office in the D.C. area, and is in fact one of the only Muslims elected to political office in the country. Ali doesn't represent my district, but he is from my county, and everything I've read about him is very positive. A disciple of 8th District Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ali is a strong progressive and an outspoken advocate for interfaith tolerance and dialogue between Muslims and Jews. As so often is the case, the Democratic "bench" in Maryland is unbelievably deep. But there should be some movement soon--Van Hollen definitely has his eye on advancing (probably to Barbara Mikulski's senate seat when she retires), leaving his House seat open (but County Supervisor Ike Leggett may desire that for himself). In any event, it's early in his career, but Ali strikes me as someone with potential to move up the party ranks. And I wish him all the luck in the world.


Saqib Ali said...


Thanks so much for the kind words! :)

I thought Supervisor Delgaudio's statements were uncalled for. Of course the people at that event were patriotic Americans. Asking them to pledge-allegiance seemed like it was challenging their American-ness.

PS. If you get a chance, please send me your email address to so that I can stay in touch with you (is it

David Schraub said...

My email address is schraubd[at]carleton[d.o.t]edu . I tried sending it to that email address, but it bounced back to me. Your website also appears to be down.

Anonymous said...

Aside from a single comment on a blog, where do you deduce that Muslims are a natural GOP base? Granted, Muslims are quite socially conservative, but in a second I'll show why that will never practically matter in an election.

Before that, though, there's no denying that Muslim Americans skew to the left on a panoply of issues. You specifically mention a distaste for the welfare state, but that is demonstrably untrue. PEW's poll of Muslim Americans, the first and most comprehensive of its kind, found that, "Muslims' attitudes regarding both the size and scope of the government are quite liberal. By a wide margin, more Muslim Americans say they prefer a bigger government providing more social services than a smaller government with few services. A large majority also favors greater government aid for the poor, even if it adds to the national debt." In fact, the poll found this view of government was prevalent amongst liberals (77%), moderates (66%) and even conservative Muslims (70%). Disdain for the welfare state, far from being a natural political rallying point, is actually aberrant even amongst conservative Muslims.

As for social conservatism, I don't see the GOP brand winning over any Muslims. The problem is that Muslims, by a good margin, do support more government protection of morality. But GOP candidates see that and immediately replace morality with Christianity. For them, there is no practical difference since they unabashedly see the moral heritage of the US as being a Christian heritage. In fact, they tend to think an unwillingness to acknowledge that is a major failing amongst liberals. Decrying the influence of secularists, queers, Muslims and immigrants is part of the social conservative demagogues' toolbox. So even in this area where this a great potential for overlap between Muslims and Christians, the Nativist-Christianist tenor and rhetoric of GOP lawmakers is sure to alienate Muslims, case-in-point, Virgil Goode.