When Mitt Romney claimed that Israel’s “culture” is responsible for its economic superiority, he was recycling the “Southern Strategy”— this time with Muslims and Arabs added to the mix.

The GOP devised the Southern Strategy in the 1960s and ’70s as a way to win over white voters with subtle racial messages about crime and welfare. African-American men were coded as criminals to be locked up, and poverty was presented as a product of “black culture” not to be encouraged through government “handouts.”

Romney’s backhanded hailing of Palestinian “culture” fits this framework.

The election of President Obama in 2008 — and Democratic victories in Southern states like Virginia and North Carolina that year — signaled a blow to the traditional Southern Strategy. Yet if Obama’s African-American roots were no longer going to be as useful, his Muslim familial connections would quickly rise to prominence. Obama was “accused” during his campaign of being a “secret Muslim,” a charge that would come back again and again.

Amazingly, even today 17 percent of the public believes he’s Muslim. A whopping 34 percent of conservative GOP voters identify him as Muslim, more than twice the level during his presidential campaign in 2008.

The new GOP Southern Strategy highlights Muslims and Arabs as the key threats to national security and “law and order,” even while the old strategy persists.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., is raising money for his reelection campaign in part by praising the endorsement of a libertarian blogger who claims Obama is Muslim.

Similarly, the accusation of Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin is a Muslim Brotherhood agent is a part of this approach. It is a means of appealing to the Republican base (about 25 percent of the electorate), which holds far right-wing values.

When Bachmann accused Abedin of infiltrating the government, she was not only employing McCarthyite fearmongering, but also positioning the Republican Party, and Romney, as a “lesser evil.” That is, if Romney is not the darling of the far right, he is certainly better than a Democratic Party infiltrated by Muslim agents (be they Obama or Abedin).

Bachmann’s attack on Abedin — and its ringing endorsement by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Romney’s foreign policy guru John Bolton — indicates that Romney has no problem stirring up the ugly pot.

Muslims and Arabs have been incorporated into the Southern Strategy, and Islamophobia will continue to thrive this election season unless people of conscience speak out.

Deepa Kumar is the author of the new book “Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.” She is associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University and can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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