Fear is a natural emotion that is induced by a perceived threat, or a specific stimulus happening in the present, or some future situation. In both human beings and animals, fear is modulated by cognition and learning and in humans it can be either rational and appropriate, or irrational and inappropriate; irrational fear is a phobia. Republicans have learned that sowing fear is a valuable campaign tactic, and the more irrational fear among their supporters, the more motivated they are to vote for Republicans promising to eliminate whatever perceived threat their base’s phobia is grounded in. As political psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University wrote in The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation; “In politics, the emotions that really sway voters are hate, hope and fear or anxiety. But the skillful use of fear is unmatched in leading to enthusiasm for one candidate and causing voters to turn away from another.” If nothing else, Republicans are skillful at using fear to sway voters and lacking any record to run on, they are opting for fear in the leadup to the midterm elections.
After the past few days of Republican fear-mongering over the “perceived” threat from the ISIS (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, it is blatantly obvious that besides drumming-up support for a new Middle East war to profit their military industrial complex donors, they are in campaign mode. What is curious, is that Republicans are campaigning against President Obama who is not running for any political office, but since they cannot run on their records in Congress, they are using conditions in Iraq to frighten Americans into supporting the GOP.
Of all the outrageous claims made by Republicans criticizing the President for the “threat” of ISIS, one that stands out was Senator Lindsey Graham’s remark that President Obama “has to realize, as president Bush did, that his Iraq strategy is not working.” Graham then went on to tout the vaunted surge’s success, and that the President has to put all options, including ground troops, on the table to defeat ISIS. Warmonger John McCain is also criticizing the President for not coming forward “with a cohesive, comprehensive strategy, not only in Iraq, but also in Ukraine also in other parts of the world,” and not outlining “a role that the United States of America has to play, and that’s a leadership role.”
First, Graham, like warmonger John McCain has to understand that Barack Obama is not the President of Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, or “other parts of the world,” and could not leave troops or a ‘surge’ of troops in a sovereign nation. Second, Americans do not want another war in Iraq, and there is no way ISIS can be defeated. Sunni and Shia Muslims have been at war in the region around Iraq for centuries over Sunnis creating an Islamic caliphate, and after a period of relative peace under Saddam Hussein, it was American actions in Iraq that created ISIS; particularly the group’s leader. Before becoming Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and architect of the violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East, he was an innocent non-combatant rounded up and thrown into prison by Americans in or around early 2004.
There is no question that ISIS is a threat to Iraq and Syria, but it is important to remember that it was the Bush administration’s fear-mongering the drove so many Americans, including many Democrats to support invading Iraq in the first place. What is telling about the stale mindset of Republicans, is their reiteration of Islamic terrorists attacking America to frighten Americans into supporting a new Iraq war in the same manner they pushed Bush’s war of aggression and profit. Their problem is Bush is not the president and it is more likely than not they know, and accept, that Obama is not taking America into another stupid and wasteful war in Iraq.
Republicans have no record to run on leading up to the midterm elections, and after shutting down the government, threatening a credit default, failing to raise the minimum wage, create one job, pass immigration reform, extend unemployment benefits, or do anything for the American people, they have to resort to fear-mongering about ISIS attacking America. A few days ago Rick Perry told an audience that he was certain ISIS was crossing the border under the guise of being Central American children to rain terror on Americans. Even though Perry said he, or Republicans, had no credible information, or evidence ISIS was invading the southern border, the damage was done and the Republican base was duly mortified. That irrational fear is more than sufficient to erase any memory of Republican inaction in Congress, or the damage from shutting down the government.
Even Paul Ryan jumped in to help distract voters from Republicans’ failure to govern for the people and joined the fear-mongers saying yesterday that, “What I want to hear from our commander-in-chief is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off. To defeat ISIS. If we don’t deal with this threat now thoroughly and convincingly, it’s going to come home to roost.” Republicans even used the beheading of a journalist to distract voters from their ineptitude over the past three years by attacking the President for going golfing instead of grabbing an AR15 and leading troops into battle in Syria. They failed to mention that five Americans were beheaded when Bush was president, but that would have devalued the distraction factor of assailing the President for not preventing Bush’s invasion of Iraq that led to all of the beheadings.
Republicans have nothing to run on, not their pathetic do-nothing record, not the steadily-improving economy and monthly job increases, not the success and growing popularity of the Affordable Care Act, not the President’s perpetual accommodation of the religious right, and not the fact that the President has kept America out of any number of wars Republicans lust to start. So they have resorted to what works on their wildly ignorant base; irrational fear. Fear of immigrant children seeking asylum, fear of losing their religious liberty, fear of African Americans, and fear of Sunni Muslims fighting a several-century old war against Shia Muslims. A war that Bush revived when he used fear-mongering to remove the one man that kept what would become ISIS at bay; Saddam Hussein
A few years ago President Obama was asked about the culture of fear gripping America, and his response was as apropos today as it was then. He said, “We have been operating under a politics of fear: fear of terrorists, fear of immigrants, fear of people of different religious beliefs, fears of gays that they might get married and that somehow that would affect us. We have to break that fever of fear. Unfortunately what I’ve been seeing from the Republicans is that they are going to perpetuate this fearmongering.” The President was right; they are perpetuating “this fearmongering” because it works, and as a campaign tactic is successfully distracting voters from their gross ineptitude and refusal to work for the people.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.