“Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted LGBTQ community. No good. And we’re going to stop it. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
While heralded as a “watershed moment” for the Republican Party, many failed to take note of what was not said in Trump’s speech. For instance, there was no call for the RNC to revise or reconsider its party platform, described by the Log Cabin Republicans as being “the most anti-LGBT” in the party’s history.
In order to realize his convention pledge, Trump would later propose the U.S. resort to “extreme vetting” of aspiring immigrants to prevent anyone harboring “bigotry or hatred” towards gender or sexual minorities from entering the U.S. However, there was absolutely no mention of restricting American citizens from going to other countries with the explicit purpose of spreading ideologies which the policy would construe as homophobic or misogynistic.
That is, in both cases Trump declined to challenge his supporters on their own attitudes or behaviors—instead, the “gay issue” was raised primarily as a means of attacking foreigners and, especially, Muslims.
In social research, this phenomena is referred to as Homonationalism: a bad-faith embrace of LGBTQ advocacy to justify hatred, discrimination or violence towards some “backwards” other. Before LGBTQ issues became the humanitarian vogue, “women’s empowerment” occupied the same position—with people who were, themselves, staunchly anti-feminist calling for war against Muslims for the sake of “liberating women.”
However, conservatives in the U.S. should beware of jumping on this particular bandwagon—because if the GOP follows Trump down this path, it is they who stand to lose the most in the long run.
A Pyrrhic Victory
Most American Muslims are first-generation immigrants. However, if Trump’s “extreme vetting” policy is a backdoor attempt at banning Muslims (given the likely unconstitutionality of his original “religious test” proposal), it would be largely unsuccessful: Muslim Americans tend to be relatively more supportive of expanding rights and protections for LGBTQ citizens than many other religious populations in the U.S.—to include Evangelicals, Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Moreover, due to recent historical trends (primarily, how the “War on Terror” has been prosecuted), U.S. Muslims vote almost unanimously Democrat. Meaning, even if many personally oppose homosexuality, they nonetheless vote for policymakers who strongly advocate for the LGTBQ agenda–to include America’s only two Muslim Congressmen, Democrats Keith Ellison and Andre Carson.
Two important implications follow:
First, the current immigration system already seems to strongly attract or filter for Muslims who are respectful of gender and sexual minorities. Consider: despite being primarily first-generation immigrants from nations where LGBTQ tolerance is among the lowest in the world, Muslim American sentiment today is roughly comparable to the general U.S. consensus circa 2006.
Second, Trump’s ideological test would likely prevent many aspiring Christian (or even Orthodox Jewish) candidates from immigrating to the U.S.—particularly those from Africa or the Middle East, who tend to hold more traditional views on gender and sexuality than their Western or Latin-American counterparts.
Due to the intense persecution believers currently face in Christianity’s ancestral homeland (and beyond), many are seeking asylum in Western nations. On Trump’s plan, however, Christians who face discrimination and persecution for their faith abroad could also find themselves turned away from America on the basis of their religion (Middle Eastern and North African Christians would face a similar problem with Trump’s other backdoor attempt at banning Muslims: turning away people from “terror-affected” countries, just as Christians would suffer the most due to aggressive law enforcement policies targeting people from these countries).
And cutting across religious lines, Trump’s proposed “extreme vetting” would tend to filter out immigrants who espouse conservative ideology in favor of progressives–exacerbating existing unfavorable demographic trends for conservatism in the United States.
In short, if the goal of “extreme vetting” was to preserve conservative or Christian identity—it would basically have the opposite effect in practice. Indeed, many of Trump’s most ardent supporters would, themselves, abysmally fail his proposed ideology test. And while these are overwhelmingly lifelong U.S. citizens who could not plausibly be deported or denied entry, the contradiction still matters. A lot.
A Dangerous Precedent…for Christians
Trump’s strategy, marrying “defense” of LGBTQ communities with hostility towards immigrants and Muslims, is a relatively new development in American politics—but is a common trope in Europe. As if to underscore this pedigree, one of the chief proliferators of Homonationalism in the E.U., Dutch politician Geert Wilders, actually spoke at a RNC Convention event hosted by LGBTrump.
But it is imperative that conservatives note the differences between the E.U. and the U.S. before attempting to emulate these policies. In particular, the European context is already heavily—often militantly—secularized. As a result, right-leaning parties have little to lose by targeting Muslims.
The situation would be quite different in America:
Most hate crimes, discrimination, and socio-political hostility LGBTQ Americans or feminists face originates from native-born, Republican-voting, Protestants (rather than immigrants or Muslims). This is not an attempt at deflection, it is a brute fact that would be echoed in courtrooms across the country soon after Trump’s policy was enacted.
Social conservatives should have no doubt that if they establish a legal precedent defining opposition to feminism or the LGBTQ movement as fundamentally anti-American (i.e. flagrantly contradicting our Constitution and values), liberal advocacy groups will push to expand the scope, applications and enforcement of these provisions to target Christians as well.
For instance, opposition to the feminist or LGBTQ agenda could be cited as grounds for stripping federal student loan aid from Christian colleges, ending tax exemptions for religious institutions, strongly restricting displays of religion in public spaces, for exposing small businesses, corporations, or even Christian organizations to civil liability for controversial views or policies—or on the far end, even broadening formal designations of hate groups or domestic radicals to enable more aggressive dismantling of certain forms of dissent.
There is a growing social and political movement in the U.S. eager to implement these sanctions—and it seems increasingly likely that they will eventually succeed. But it would nonetheless be tragic if Christian conservatives, themselves, opened the floodgates for this radical secularlization in a misguided attempt to stunt Islam in America. Should conservative Christians sincerely aspire to more fully embrace LGBTQ Americans (and many do), it is wholly unnecessary–indeed, suicidal–to justify this conviction by demonizing some other vulnerable religious population.