Donald Trump’s vote-winning strategy – attack Muslims

Donald Trump prides himself on not backing down from any fight or controversial position. Hours after the Orlando nightclub mass shooting on June 12, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee doubled down on his plan to ban Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. He also renewed his call for U.S. law enforcement agencies to use greater racial profiling, especially of Muslim Americans.

“I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country,” Trump said in a June 19 interview on the CBS news program “Face the Nation.” He later added, “I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense… It’s not the worst thing to do.”

In December, Trump shocked the world when he called for the ban on all Muslim travelers entering the United States – until American leaders “can figure out what the hell is going on.” Throughout the campaign, Trump has advocated increased surveillance of Muslim American communities and mosques. He also said he would consider registering Muslim Americans in a database, or requiring Muslims to carry special identification cards.

Trump is persisting with his attack on Muslims because it has proven be his strongest issue, according to exit polls in many Republican primaries. In the pivotal March 15 contests, exit polls of voters in the five states that held elections revealed a remarkable fact: two-thirds of Republican voters support Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants and tourists. In some states that held early primary elections – South Carolina and Missouri – nearly 75 percent of Republican voters support the ban.

Since he became the presumptive Republican nominee last month, there’s been much discussion of how Trump would adjust his views to appeal to a broader American public in the general election. But even if other Republican leaders denounce his views, don’t expect Trump to curtail his attacks on Islam or his overt Islamophobia – he has little incentive to do so, as long as it wins him votes.

The polling shows that while Trump is fanning the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, he did not create this phenomenon. He’s a demagogue who is taking advantage of deep-seated fears of Muslims among Americans, especially Republican voters. Trump is winning votes because he is willing to go further than any other candidate in tarnishing all Muslims.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in March, Trump declared flatly: “I think Islam hates us.” When Cooper asked him whether the religion is at war with the West, Trump added, “There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.”

One day after his CNN interview, the moderator of a Republican presidential debate asked Trump to clarify his comments: “Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?” “I mean a lot of them,” Trump responded, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.” Given several chances by his interviewers to distinguish between Islamic militants and the majority of the world’s Muslims, Trump refused to make that distinction and instead continued to tarnish an entire religion.

Similarly, Trump has not wavered from his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, saying it would not apply to American citizens and would be a “temporary measure” in response to the threat of attacks from jihadist groups like Islamic State. He invoked one of America’s darkest periods: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision during World War Two to classify more than 100,000 Japanese, German and Italian immigrants as “enemy aliens.” That decision paved the way for the internment of tens of thousands of noncitizens and U.S. citizens of Japanese descent.

Trump’s proposal and rhetoric are part of a growing undercurrent of Islamophobia that is making life difficult for the estimated three million Muslims in the United States. Hate crimes against Muslim Americans have surged since the November terrorist attacks in Paris and the December massacre in San Bernardino, California, which were both claimed by Islamic State.