With no clear frontrunner for 2012, Republicans candidates have been tasked with unraveling a political Gordian Knot: winning both social conservatives in Iowa and fiscal conservatives in New Hampshire. Social concerns, however, especially the role of Islam and secularism, now seem to have displaced fiscal concerns.
In this week’s episode of The God Vote, Sally Quinn and Jacques Berlinerblau discuss a bevy of anti-Islamic and anti-atheist remarks that have been expressed by some of the presumptive Republican candidates for the presidency.
Sally and Jacques examine a recent speech by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, delivered at pastor and activist John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Gingrich warned his audience of a future “secular atheist” America, “potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.”
Herman Cain, who, like Gingrich, has already begun an exploratory committee for Iowa 2012, also recently cited a “creeping attempt,” to “ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.” Cain went on to issue an authoritative “no” in response to whether he’d consider appointing a Muslim to his cabinet or the federal judiciary. In 2007, Berlinerblau notes, John McCain, who expressed his admiration for “the Islam,” also claimed that he would “prefer not” to have a Muslim president elected.
Such statements reflect the continuing importance of social issues in the race to Iowa 2012. This week, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) declared that “social conservatism is fiscal conservatism.” In so doing, Bachmann tried to bridge an apparent gap between the GOP’s fiscal and social conservative bases. Mike Huckabee, who continues to lead polls among Republican hopefuls has also recently called for a “a spiritual war” to reclaim America.
While such statements garner media attention, it remains to be seen whether they will hold the public’s interest in the weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire. What seems clear from this diverse field of issues—secularism, fear of Islamicism--however, is that the Gordian Knot remains: no candidate or issue has been able to unify social and fiscal conservative voices.
Do you think that the role of Islam will remain a prominent political issue in 2012?
Ross Berg studies at Georgetown University. He serves as an assistant producer for The God Vote.