Arab American Congressmen with Conflicting Views on Trump
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
Arab Americans have been mentioned more during this election cycle than any other in the past. This is largely due to the inflammatory rhetoric Donald Trump, and other presidential candidates, have said about Arab Americans, Muslims, and Syrian refugees.
During his campaign, Trump has referred to Syrian refugees as a “Trojan horse” for ISIL, saying they “could be ISIS … and by the way, it is turning out that they probably are ISIS,” even though terrorist attacks committed by ISIL in the West have not been by Syrian refugees. Trump has also said he “absolutely” supports the idea of a database containing information on all American Muslims. He has advocated for increased surveillance of mosques, and inaccurately claimed he saw “thousands and thousands” of Arab Americans cheering in New Jersey as the twin towers were going down on 9/11.
Now that Donald Trump is the only Republican presidential candidate left standing, it is likely he will be the GOP’s nominee. Throughout last week, high-profile republicans said they would not support Donald Trump as the party’s nominee, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, President George W. Bush and his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), and former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Another Republican staunchly opposed to Donald Trump is an Arab American – Representative Justin Amash (MI). Rep. Amash is one of the first political leaders who labeled Trump as “dangerous,” and believes the GOP frontrunner is a bigger threat to “limited government” than Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The libertarian-leaning congressman represents a largely conservative, white, Christian base in West Michigan. Amash often advocates for less American intervention in wars, small government, and protection of free speech and privacy. He thinks that there should be pushback from constituents on the way establishment politics are run, but that “Trump is the wrong kind of pushback… He cares about power. He doesn’t really care about things like the Constitution. And I’m concerned that he could push us in a very dangerous direction.”
Amash is unlikely to support Trump in the future, either. In a not-so-subtle jab at fellow republicans who were against Trump, then changed their mind when Cruz and Kasich dropped out, Amash tweeted on May 4, “Nothing better illustrates the phoniness of politicians than the ease with which they shift from blasting one another to praising one another.”
One Republican who did join the Trump train after heavily criticizing the candidate is also an Arab American – Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA). During the election cycle, Rep. Issa was supporting Florida Senator Marco Rubio before he dropped out of the race after losing his home state of Florida. Since Trump is now the only choice for the GOP, Issa said that Trump is the “obvious choice” because “Hillary Clinton makes it clear she’s running for Barack Obama’s third term in the White House with nothing but a different name on the door.”
Back in February, Rep. Issa compared Trump to Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who is known for demolishing his own campaign after saying, “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” Issa compared Trump’s campaign to Akin’s because both were “saying things that were off the wall.” Akin’s statements caused the GOP to take a big hit in 2012, and at the time, Issa feared “Donald Trump could be a national Todd Akin.”
Issa overcame these fears, though, and officially endorsed Trump, despite the candidate’s bigoted stances on Arab Americans and Muslims. A significant number of Issa’s constituents are Arab American, causing many to wonder how he can comfortably support Trump, even if he is the only candidate remaining. Issa is a long-time supporter of federal government transparency, equality in employment laws, and promoting peace initiatives in the Middle East. However, during the same time that Issa compared Trump to Akin, the congressman advocated for the party to coalesce around one candidate to give the GOP strength in November.
Although these two Arab American congressmen differ in opinion on their party’s likely presidential nominee, their voices are still important in shaping the 2016 elections. Michigan and California have some of the highest Arab American populations, making the congressmen’s voices that much more critical to the voting outcomes of the community. If Donald Trump is to be the nominee, republicans can either reject him or join him and possibly shift his perspectives a bit. Either way, unprecedented measures will be taken in the Republican Party, and Arab Americans will be part of them.