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Opinion

Republican references to 'real Americans' incite division and fear

America is changing in ways Sarah Palin's 'real Americans' don't like. As the US diversifies, to remain relevant, the GOP must abandon divisive language that Michelle Bachmann and others have used recently and instead embrace a more unifying message.

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Not all Republicans are guilty of domestic divisiveness, but it is an unfortunate reality that members such as Bachmann and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas (who is continuing the accusations of Muslim Brotherhood influence in America) are allowed a prominent home under the Republican tent. The tragic irony of their vision is not that America is slipping from their grasp, but rather that the Republican fringe is increasingly hostile to the American ideal of a multi-cultural and pluralistic society.

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While presidential campaigns are often decided on wedge issues, a continued strategy within parts of the Republican Party to vilify those from diverse backgrounds as “un-American” is incredibly shortsighted.

Attempts by the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, Florida, and more than a dozen other states to implement voter ID laws renews concerns. These voter ID laws, supposedly meant to combat voter fraud, have the potential to disenfranchise millions of voters – create road blocks to voting for millions of Americans who are predominantly from minority backgrounds.

Though such restrictions may be politically expedient to Republicans in the short-term, they ignore a more pressing challenge. The proportion of the population represented by Ms. Palin’s and Bachmann’s “real Americans” (white) is shrinking, and America is in the midst of an era of change and renewal. As our nation continues to diversify, the Republican Party will be unable to remain relevant unless it embraces a set of more enlightened policies and a more unifying message.

The lack of diversity within the Republican Party is already marginalizing them in what were once competitive states. Even Obama, in a fundraising trip to deep red Texas last month, declared that Texas could be a battleground state “soon,” an allusion to the increasing Hispanic population there and the potential for such demographic shifts to reshape the political landscape.

Both parties must acknowledge and try to solve the real issues facing all Americans, beyond momentary political gains. If some Republicans continue to resist the changes taking place, then a common effort to solve our problems will likely not be possible. There is an urgent need for an emphasis on solving problems and less on divisive rhetoric.

How we treat those who appear different from us reflects the degree of faith we have in the success of the American experiment – the great melting pot. And if our current times are filled with anxiety and unease, they also give us an opportunity and a challenge to open our eyes and hearts to a new generation of Americans, no matter their political, ethnic, religious, or racial background.

Bassam Gergi is a Master of Philosophy student in Comparative Government at Oxford University.

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