It’s a well-known feature in American politics that candidates for office conform their policy stances to benefit politically-active constituents who vote and contribute handsomely to their campaign coffers. So, how do Muslims measure up—as an interest group–compared to other demographics? In 2012, it was estimated that 1.2 Million Muslims were registered to vote. Let’s think about that for a second; 1.2 million American Muslims as of 2012. That doesn’t sound like much in a country with over 300,000,000 people, does it? No, unless we examine where Muslims are living.
The majority of Muslim voters live in “key” election states: Florida, Ohio, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Texas and New Jersey. Florida, Ohio, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia add up to 180 electoral votes. If we add New Jersey and Texas, we are up to a combined total of 232 –out of the 270 –Electoral College votes needed to win the next election. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Prior to the last election, the majority of Muslim registered voters opted for Republican candidates. Actually, Muslims have a long tradition of voting Republican and supporting Republican values. The majority of Muslims voted for former President Bush in the 2000 election, but have overwhelmingly transferred their support to democratic candidates since the growing “war on terror”—steamrolled vociferously by Republicans—has alienated much support among their Muslim constituents.
The longer this presidential primary continues—and the more vitriol spewed against Muslims–the further apart Republican and Muslim values seem to drift.
Interestingly enough, mainstream discourse seems to suggest that this is exactly what Republicans are trying to do; distance themselves from Muslims in order to pander more to their Christian base, especially with a a lot of chest-beating and bravado. I’m not sure how that became their conventional wisdom, especially since the first amendment so clearly separates church and state. “God bless America.” Non-Muslim Americans do not notice who we are, how “American” we are, and just how impactful the American-Muslims are in OUR country.
Time to Ante Up
Muslims are taxpaying, hard working consumers. They employ Americans, work for Americans, produce, manufacture, market and sell American made goods. Corporations know how lucrative the Muslim consumer is.
According to the US Halal Association, Nestle-US headquarters in Minnesota-attributes $5 billion dollars in sales and dedicates 75 factories to producing “halal” -not kosher- foods for the Muslim community. It is estimated that 16% of the kosher market are Muslim consumers with limited access to “halal” products. Further, if you were to add up the wealth of Muslim Americans in the Entertainment, Music, and Sports industries alone, you have over $1billion dollars. They have long been involved in American real estate (hmm hmmm Mr. Trump) and have engineered The Sears Tower and The Hancock Towers. The American Medical Association states that 10% of American physicians are Muslims. Muslims are the second largest contributors to the US economy, and invest over $200 billion into the United States’ economy. There are 3-6 million American Muslims in the United States. I’m not an MBA or anything, but that sounds like a lot of buying power.
Time to Double Down. The only color these candidates seem to concern themselves with is green and where they can get the most of it. Trump proclaims himself as “self-funded,” but where do his “self-funds” come from? The entertainment industry, which is scarce in Muslim representation, yet the Christian market seems quite lucrative, as Trump has apparently found out. He was responsible for the production of 10 different Reality TV shows on major networks. He and Mark Burnett produced The Bible series that brought in around 100 million viewers, which ended up being the most-watched cable miniseries of the year. He produced the follow up series A.D.: The Bible Continues, which premiered in Spring 2015. In 2014, Burnett produced the feature film Son of God and is now producing another, Ben-Hur, with MGM and Paramount for a 2016 release (God Complex?) As a matter of fact, up until recently, Trump had contracts with NBC, Universal, Univision, Macy’s, Serta, PVH Corporation, and Perfumania. Maybe he’s a disgruntled employee?
The other Republican candidates have also caught on to the power of the Christian market. Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas who was called “The Syrian Muslim Hunter” by The Daily Beast after proposing legislation that would ban Syrian Muslim refugees while only accepting Syrian Christians, is essentially funded primarily by SuperPACs- Political Action Committees. But these SuperPacs aren’t primarily fueled by religious concerns; secular interests also dominate campaign donations. But first…what is a SuperPAC?
The maximum donation one can personally make to presidential hopefuls is $2,600 and direct corporate donations are illegal. $2,600 is not nearly enough to buy political influence. The solution to this quagmire was the advent of SuperPACs, or Political Action Committees, which–according to the Federal Election Committee–is any committee that gathers more than $2,600 for the sake of influencing a presidential election. That is a PAC’s main purpose. They are special interest committees with corporate backing that solicit money from either their members or the general public for the purpose of influencing a presidential election. SuperPacs are formed by individuals, corporations, and non-profit organizations that seek to financially support candidates who are favorable to their interests, whether that interest is religious (“Christian” values) or secular (removing laws that seek to regulate corporations). It’s the main vehicle through which corporations can funnel money to favored candidates without contributing a direct donation, and thereby circumvent campaign financing laws.
Among those that have donated to Ted Cruz’ SuperPacs include an $11 million donation from Robert Mercer who–over the past six years–has spent $37 million in support of pro-life candidates, global warming deniers, and he heavily contributed to the fund that blocked the construction of a mosque near the site of the September 11th attacks in New York. He’s just one on a lengthy list of oil tycoons and billionaire bankers on the list, which also includes a $10 million donation from Toby Neugebauer, investor at Kidder, Peabody & Co.‘s Natural Resources Group. Neugebauer also co-founded Quantum Energy Partners, Texoil, Crown Oil Partners, Parks & Luttrell Energy Partners and serves on the Boards of Meritage Energy Partners, EnSight Energy Partners, Tri-C Energy, Rockford Energy Partners and TriQuest Energy Corp, QA Global GP. Then there’s the $15 million donation by Dan and Farris Wilks, two billionaire brothers from Cruz’s home state of Texas. Again-that’s the short list. Ted Cruz is not the only Republican candidate bank-rolled by special interest groups.
Then, there’s Ben Carson, the doctor originally from Detroit, Michigan. Some of Carson’s top donors—which include Hobby Lobby and A-1 Storage Company–support anti-gay platforms and spend a fortune trying to derail gay-marriage. Hobby Lobby also challenged health coverage for women, stating that their “religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception.” That includes birth-control, regardless of why it is being recommended. Once the Supreme Court judged in favor of Hobby Lobby, Carson praised the decision. Apparently, he’s also not a big fan of Muslims. In an MSNBC interview about why he did not feel the founding fathers would have approved of a Muslim president, he responded:
“We don’t even want to take the slight chance that we would put someone in that position who had different loyalties.”
Mr. Carson, I have to agree with you; different loyalties do muddy the waters of politics, which is why you should not be running.
The next candidate on the roster is Florida’s favorite senator, Marco Rubio. He too is a product of SuperPacs. Mr. Rubio is climbing up the polls using advertising and interviews funded by Goldman Sachs, Microsoft….and even Disney. What could they stand to gain? What is the special interest? Well, he’s screaming that we should, “Shut down any place Muslims gather,” hoping you wouldn’t notice that he has co-authored two pieces of legislation that would expand the H-1B Visa Program. You know, the one that facilitates the importation of foreign labor, particularly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. FYI–3/4 of Americans trained in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are unemployed in their field. The recent bill, known as I-Squared would triple the number of visas given. Guess who hires applicants with H-1B visas? Disney, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs, who are three of the top 50 corporate users.
Unfortunately, the only Republican who apparently read the constitution was Paul Ryan, and he’s not running for president. He responded to Trump’s New Reich plans at a news conference stating,
“What was proposed… is not what this party stands for. And, more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.” He went on to add, “Not only are there many Muslims serving in our armed forces dying for this country, there are Muslims serving right here in the House working every day to uphold and to defend the Constitution.”
Thank you for protecting the constitution, Mr. Ryan, and reminding your colleagues what America is about. Perhaps with leadership like yours, Muslim voters might actually be drawn back, but not before campaign finance reform and congressional term limits are put into place. It is, however, tenacity like Mr. Ryan’s that attracted the Muslim voter many years ago. Muslim voters are attracted to the self-made American who fought for their achievements in the face of adversity.
Freedom is the number one reason this country is so appealing to so many. Instead of embracing that like so many Republican candidates have done before, the front runners of this Republican primary have threatened the freedoms of those 3-6 million Muslim Americans that buy, sell, educate, legislate, and vote.
Until then, the majority of those 1.2 million voters in key states will have to take their votes elsewhere.