Donald Trump and the GOP Fear Mongering over ISIS
December 15, 2015
Donald Trump is following the GOP playbook - not writing it. He has repeatedly called for banning the entry of all Muslims to the U.S. He has waffled on whether this would include returning Muslim servicemen and on how long such a ban would remain in effect. Nonetheless, Trump’s pronouncements on banning Muslims from the U.S. are consistent with other GOP fear-mongering policies.
Following the terrorist attack in Paris, 30 GOP governors announced their insistence on banning Syrian refugees from entering their states. The pretext for this ban was fear that Isis terrorists would hide among the refugees. These governors were not persuaded that refugees have to wait for between 1 ½ to 2 years for entry into the U.S., during which time they are investigated.
More pointedly, GOP Sen. Rand Paul introduced legislation banning the entry of refugees and other immigrants from up to 30 Muslim countries. Although banning immigrants from certain countries is more consistent with previous exclusionary practices and less obnoxious than religious bans, the intent and consequence of Senator Paul’s legislation is equivalent to Trump’s pronouncement. In the face of attacks by terrorists the response of GOP officials is clear: construct a barrier to keep “Them” out of the U.S. Of course, when the terrorists are U.S citizens, this strategy cannot be terribly effective.
For those who doubt the provenance of Trump’s “ Ban the Muslims” idea, as originating from the GOP playbook, they should consider the party’s recent response to the 2014 Ebola crisis. As the highly contagious Ebola epidemic was flaring in W. Africa and seven returning U.S. citizens were diagnosed with the disease, Republicans panicked. The solution to this fear flew in the face of well-held epidemiologic principles established with HIV, SARS, pandemic influenza and other contagious diseases. For each disease, the scientific and epidemiogic practice has proven that attempting to restrict all travel is not effective in preventing the spread of the disease, but could actually increase it.
The GOP officials who called for restricting travel from certain countries ignored the fact that bans may be ineffective in identifying those travelers whose journeys began in Africa but had traveled through Europe and other regions before arrival to the U.S. The threat of being restricted can provoke travelers, especially those desperate for care, to lie about medical history. When two nurses in Texas developed Ebola, there were no calls for banning travel from Texas or other region.
Sending U.S. medical workers to W. Africa to help end the Ebola epidemic offered the best way of keeping the U.S. citizens safe. However, restricting medical workers from returning to the U.S. or quarantining them on their return would diminish the pool of medical workers willing to volunteer for this battle. In effect, the GOP strategy was completely counter-productive to protecting U.S. citizens from the dreaded disease.
Underlying these problems with the GOP strategy is the legally dubious notion that preventive policies can be aimed at people who may not pose a risk to others. GOP officials called for quarantining West Africans and those who had been exposed to West Africans. Quarantining people who are neither contagious or who will necessarily become contagious cannot be legally justified, nor does it make sense. Similarly subjecting people to punishments for terrorist acts they may never engage in or for membership in the same nationalities or religions from which some terrorists may be drawn doesn’t make sense and is legally or morally justifiable.
Donald Trump’s exclusionary rhetoric and policy is based on the standard GOP fear mongering playbook. This playbook calls for inflaming the panic felt by their base and convincing them that only the GOP can protect the “Homeland” by xenophobic wall-building. Trump and the other GOP leaders have called for a solution to ISIS that is as misguided and doomed to failure as was their proposals to the Ebola crisis. One can only hope their ISIS proposals are also rejected.