It’s become something of a joke to notice that Donald Trump greets each Islamophobic lurch to the right by the Republican Party and his presidential rivals by staking out a new position beyond what had earlier been the pale. It’s getting to be not so funny.
With Republicans going collectively nuts over President Obama’s calm and decidedly non-Islamophobic speech on terrorism Sunday night, it seems Trump figured he’d better leap to a place where nobody this side of the gates of delirium has been: proposing a “total and [if that’s not enough!] complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” How long would this emergency measure last? “[U]ntil our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.” Given Trump’s general attitude toward “our country’s representatives,” that would appear to mean until he’s inaugurated as president and we see how many Muslims (and others) voluntarily flee elsewhere.
Trump’s statement justifies this step by quoting a survey from that fine objective source the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney’s Islamophobic fever swamp, claiming Muslims are seething with hatred for America. But it is reasonably clear that “Muslims” here or abroad are no different from the way they were a week ago, and furthermore, that a conspiracy among all of them to kill people at a social-services center in San Bernardino is about as likely as Donald Trump showing some self-restraint.
On the outside chance that Trump is elected president, we should all pray this is his last stop on the road to a very different America where religious tests are suddenly constitutional and huge categories of people are treated as presumptive terrorists. He’s already called for a database of all Muslims and for monitoring and perhaps shutting down mosques. More generally, he’s already promising to do everything within his power to alienate allied countries with significant Muslim populations, while ignoring the suffering of the Muslims who are the primary victims of ISIS and their ilk. But one can theoretically imagine the next Trump step: maybe expulsions of Muslims already here; maybe the compulsory wearing of yellow crescents; and maybe something worse we have yet to imagine.