Donald Trump’s racist words targeting Muslims have had a cancerous effect.
The US presidential hopeful recently called for a ban on all Muslims from entering the US. Within days a sharp spike in Islamophobia was reported.
An arsonist targeted a mosque in Southern California with a firebomb on Friday of last week, just before prayers when the building was largely empty. If the bomber had hit a little later many could have be injured or killed.
Racists also targeted the office of Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Hussam said, “Hate speech has consequences. Hate incidents do not occur in a vacuum. They are the natural result of a climate fuelled by hatred, by fear-mongering.”
CAIR said the firebombing is the 63rd attack on a mosque in the US so far this year, with 17 of those attacks taking place in November. The previous record was 53 attacks in 2010.
Almost the entire political establishment has been quick to distance itself from Trump and the racist attacks. Even fellow right wing Republicans joined with the White House when it denounced Trump’s call as “un-American”.
But how can anyone take their words seriously when they have spent years fanning the flames of Islamophobia?
The West’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan are routinely couched in terms of bringing “civilisation” to barbaric lands. What were the US prisons in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay designed to do if not a humiliate Muslims?
What is “extraordinary rendition” if not a signal that Muslims do not deserve the justice accorded to non-Muslims?
Trump feels able to make ever more racist statements because mainstream politicians cleared the ground for him.
The racism whipped up at the top dovetails with the growing insecurity of middle and working class Americans to create a poisonous cocktail.
According to the Pew Research Center, the share of the national wealth of middle income households was 43 percent in 2014. That’s down from 62 percent in 1970. Fifteen million people earn £6.60 an hour or less.
In terms of purchasing power, the annual income of a minimum wage earner has declined by 32 percent since 1968. Meanwhile, the share of income going to richer households rose from 29 percent to 49 percent over the same period.
No wonder that seven in ten Americans believe the US is still in recession and most say that America’s best days are in the past.
Trump’s supporters are typically white, poorly educated, more likely to be male and older. For many all that is left of the American Dream is a sense of pessimism. This is reflected by an increasing fixation on crime, immigration and Muslims.
Attacks on Trump from those at the top can only deepen his supporters’ hatred of the establishment. The more they attack Trump, the more he can portray himself as a radical, rather than the billionaire property developer that he is.
But the Republican right are not the only ones that understand the disenchantment.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination for presidential candidate has galvanised massive popular feeling among workers. It shows that another response to the crisis is possible.
He has called for a “political revolution” and espouses left wing social democratic ideas. He wants a clampdown on corporations that avoid tax.
Also championing the poor is the revived movement on the streets, particularly the Black Lives Matters campaign. This is increasingly making links with migrant groups and low paid workers.
Mainstream Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton hopes that she can derail both these challenges by pointing to the sheer awfulness of Trump. The mantra of the Democratic right is that a vote for anyone but Hillary will let Trump in.
But giving way to Clinton is a sure-fire way of allowing Trump to continue to present himself as the outsider. It would be a tragedy if the left fell for such blackmail.