America: a country that defines itself by ideas of liberty, justice and freedom. Yet the Republicans’ current primaries to choose their candidate for the 2016 Presidential Election have exhibited anything but liberty and social justice. Sexism, homophobia and xenophobia have been on the menu so far, with the likes of Donald Trump and Rand Paul cooking up storms of controversy in their self-named battle against ‘political correctness’. If the opinions of the Republican candidates so far are anything to go by, America could be facing four years of institutionalised xenophobia, sexism and LGBT prejudice. This is the land of the free – terms and conditions apply.
Donald Trump is everything a politician should not be: misogynistic, egotistical and willing to buy the Presidency with a million dollar cheque. While his recent refusal to apologise to the presenter of the Republican debate Megyn Kelly on the 6th August for implying she gave him a tough time because she was menstruating is a sign of the ingrained sexism in the US, he has since been dubbed the ‘pioneer of free speech’. When asked by Kelly about why he felt the need to call women ‘fat pigs’ and his comment ‘it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees’ in reference to one female candidate on the American Apprentice, he started his self-proclaimed war against ‘political correctness’ – in reality against a war against anyone who isn’t white, straight and male.
However, while Trump has been making headlines over his controversial statements about women, the media’s current fascination on his misogyny alone is dangerous. The other Republican candidates have been quietly hiding in Trump’s power-hungry shadow. What is most dangerous about Trump is how his controversies are masking the true extent of ingrained prejudices in the Republican primaries. Indeed, Jed Bush once said women on welfare ‘should be able to get their life together and find a husband’. Scott Walker as Wisconsin’s State Governor repealed the state’s only Equal Pay Act. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul opposed the Violence Against Women Act. The Republicans have repeatedly stressed that ‘they’re not at war with women’, but as long as the party remains dominated by aging men with little understanding of the struggles of the modern woman (only one Republican candidate is female and less than 10% of Republican Congressmen are women), the party certainly isn’t pioneering on women’s behalf.
The Republican candidates are masking outdated views of xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and racism behind political sound bites of ‘social conservatism’ and ‘a war against political correctness’. However, conservatism is no excuse for hate and prejudice is no way to run a government. While Trump’s comments that Mexican immigrants are ‘rapists’ may initially appear humorous for the extent of his outrageousness, in fact reveals a profound ignorance. An ignorance and prejudice which should never dictate government policy – especially in a country that is such a figure head in world affairs. Whatever America does, the world copies. People underestimate the power of language, and it is important to not forget the hallowing impact such ignorance has upon minority groups. With Mick Huckabee’s comment ‘we must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat’ in reference to the gay marriage ruling on the 26th June, it is clear that members of the LGBT community have no place in a Republican-led country. Their rights will always be limited by centuries of religiously-institutionalised homophobia and this will not change until the Republican start listening to the voices of minorities.
However, the most disturbing issue that the Republican Primaries are highlighting is the closed-mindedness of the right in America. Trump’s comment ‘I don’t have time for political correctness and neither does this country’ is a fancy way of dressing up the fact he doesn’t care about you or your problems or your opinions unless your white, straight and male. In saying this, Trump was openly admitting to his refusal to modernise to the twenty-first century. The world is not becoming ‘too politically correct’ as Trump and other Republican candidates claim – it’s finally realising the institutionalised marginalisation it has inflicted upon minority groups for centuries. It’s not an infringement of free speech if it is now deemed ‘unacceptable’ to use the n-word – it’s a reflection that society is becoming increasingly willing to listen to the suffrage of struggle. It was shocking to hear the only African-American candidate Dr. Ben Carson dub the Black Lives Matter movement as ‘silly’ and ‘political correctness gone too far’ showing a lack of empathy of the struggles his own race has endured and will continue to endure unless frank discussion is held by both parties. It’s unfortunate that the only African-American Republican candidate is playing into the grubby white hands of those who feel America’s battle with race is over.
Yet if the Republicans have their way, the door of debate will be shut, with the far-right being established as law. With all the Republican candidates being against abortion (with Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee being against abortion even in cases of rape), the Republicans are sending the clear message that there is no room for discussion on such issues in the Republican Party. Agree or get out. Or worse – go join the Democrats.
Discussion is key to politics. Yet with the Republican candidates all being of the same, far-right social conservatism dressed up in different suits, no debate can be achieved. Currently, the candidates are quibbling over the different shades of red to paint the next Republican logo, in the meantime neglecting the state of American politics. While the Democrats are becoming increasingly liberal and the Republicans moving further right, American politics is becoming increasingly nasty – there’s no room for compromise or discussion. Issues have become black and white when in fact issues of medi-care are much greyer than to be simplified so crassly.
If the Republicans maintain this rigid stance against tackling issues of sexism, homophobia and racism as their primaries suggest, then they are going to position them too far right to stand a chance of winning the election. With an all-time high of 60% of Americans supporting gay marriage, the Republican candidates’ reactions to the Supreme Court ruling were out of touch with voters. While this ‘all or nothing’ attack may have been all the rage against the Democrats during the rise of the Tea Party in 2010, the popularity of this far-right movement has since diminished and now holds the potential to force moderates into the hands of the Democrats. After Obama’s controversial health care legislation, opinion for the Democrats has soured. This would have been the perfect opportunity for the Republicans to steel voters from under the Democrat’s feet to ensure a win in the 2016 Presidential election – after all, both the House and Senate are currently Republican (similar to the all-Democrat Congress Obama enjoyed when he came to office). Yet the Republican candidates are positioning themselves too far right to be in with a chance of winning. They are trying to capture a mood of politics that, for at least half of the population, is 50 years too late.
Donald Trump recently claimed “the American Dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever”. But when such idealism is rooted in excessive patriotism, xenophobia, sexism, racism and homophobia, the Republican candidates are trying to unearth ideas that should be left in well alone. Despite of the far-right of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Religious Right and the NRA, America isbecoming increasingly liberal (albeit slowly). If the Republicans keep up their refusal to listen to the screams of minorities, then they too could one day find themselves buried in their graves beneath layers of soil and prejudice.
Words by Juliette Rowsell