A new American isolationism?
As we read the reports of the latest horrific shooting in America — this time at an Orlando gay nightclub, the worst shooting in the nation’s history — we couldn’t help but imagine its impact on America’s political landscape in an already electric presidential campaign.
Presumptive nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump wasted no time in weighing in on the tragedy, albeit in very different ways.
In a speech at a Cleveland campaign stop, Clinton called for unity with America’s Muslim community to help root out those who may be planning homegrown terrorism.
“We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them,” she said. “Inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans … from entering our country hurts the vast majority of Muslims, who love freedom and hate terror.”
On the other hand, Trump wasted no time in hitting hard on his proposal to prohibit Muslims from visiting America until his administration could better ensure domestic safety, tweeting “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
When the media began to question how that policy would have prevented this most recent incident — the shooter was an American born in New York to Afghani immigrants — Trump responded with a speech Monday from a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
“The only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here,” Trump said, announcing that he would extend his prohibition to immigration from all nations with a history of terrorism. “The current politically correct response cripples our ability to talk and to think and act clearly … If we don’t get tough, and if we don’t get smart, and fast, we’re not going to have our country anymore. There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left.”
It is that kind of talk that may lead to a Trump White House, especially if more attacks strike American soil before the November election. It seems that the Western World’s safety is being questioned more so now than at any time since 9/11, and for good reason.
Just seven months ago, two domestic terrorists opened fire at a San Bernardino, Calif., office function, killing 14 and injuring another 22 in the incident that lead to a fatal shootout with police. Meanwhile, we’ve seen our allies in France and Belgium be hit even harder by terrorists pledging their allegiance to the ISIS.
A growing number of Americans now also identify Islamic terrorism as a serious threat to America — 92 percent of respondents in a November Ramussen poll taken before the San Bernardino shooting — while fewer are defending Muslims as a whole in the bloodshed — 46 percent believe ISIS does not represent Islamic believes, down from 58 percent in February 2015.
Trump’s braggadocio has put off many potential voters, but their fear of domestic terrorism, especially in light of increasing and bigger attacks here, may drive more of them into the arms of one who draws a harder line. For all of Clinton’s accurate thoughts about travel prohibitions likely playing into ISIS’ recruitment of future terrorists, there is something comforting about a wall. Trump is undoubtedly a shrewd tactician, and will look to exploit fear-mongering as a way to drum up votes across the board — perhaps even in typically dependent Democratic bastions like New York and California, which have been the victims of terrorist attacks.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz recently noted to USA Today that Trump appeared to benefit politically from hardline responses to the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and could benefit once again from the Orlando fallout.
“Americans are tired of the same useless, politically correct responses to terror,” he said. “They want someone who is as mad as they are and willing to do something about it.”
Ironically enough, a domestic attack ended America’s last run of isolationism on Dec. 7, 1941, but one on June 12, 2016, may start a new version.