If you are worried to the point of distraction about the deplorable state of America in the world, my advice is to sit down, relax and enjoy the Super Bowl. You are a victim of a favorite political tactic: The Big Lie.
The theory behind the Big Lie is that if you repeat a large falsehood loud enough and often enough people will begin to believe it. This concept has manifested itself in the Republican debates where most of the candidates repeated the mantra “The world is on fire!”
The Republicans would have you believe that ISIS is on the verge of overrunning Miami Beach. For sure, we are dealing with a new and dark reality that operates unconventionally, and we need to adapt. In fact, while its army has been degraded over the past few weeks ISIS has had continued success in drawing new recruits.
Politically, this represents a bloodthirsty strategy of an important sect of religious fanatics that has been planning revenge against the West for more than a millennium. Practically, they are an existential threat to the Middle East, but not to the United States. Violent acts such the San Bernardino massacre are due more to the twisted and manipulated minds of lone wolves than to any ISIS master plan.
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The Republicans would have you believe we are a weak, isolated power in the world. Yes there are challenges from China, North Korea, Iran and, worst of all, Russia. But take a breath — does anyone really believe these are worse than other confrontations the United States has faced and prevailed over in our own lifetime?
Here is another of their Big Lies: President Obama has abandoned Israel. A dear Republican friend of mine, widely known for his support of Israel, told me Obama has been the best supporter of Israel since Harry Truman. He said Obama is the only president who has advanced every bit of American technology and weaponry the Israelis have asked for. So don’t listen to the lapdogs of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the first Israeli prime minister to inject himself into partisan American politics. The American/Israeli friendship will outlast Netanyahu and Obama’s unfortunate mutual antipathy. And don’t be fooled by this brazen pandering to Jewish Americans. The Democrats will again win our vote substantially.
Then there is this Big Lie: Immigrants are endangering our economic security and safety. Of course, we need to tighten border control, become more sophisticated with background checks and, perhaps, even temporarily slow the flow from the Middle East. However, this country cannot thrive without immigrants. If 30 years ago we enacted the immigration policies of these candidates, Miami would literally not exist as we know and love it today.
Why did the debates evolve this way? To win the early Republican primaries, candidates must win evangelical voters. These voters are angry and scared of the changing face of America. I get that. The problem this presents to Republicans is that evangelicals are roughly 23 percent of America, about equal to the number of Americans who have no religious affiliation. In a general election they cancel each other out, and many of the remaining voters are moderate and less inclined to buy into this overheated rhetoric. Just watch the eventual nominee run to the center after the convention.
Between the volatile language of the debates and the media’s exploitation, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. But, notwithstanding the market correction, we have one of the most stable economies in the world. The Republican candidates need to proffer real programs that deal with income equality, infrastructure deterioration, mental health, student loans and a declining public-education system.
Many mainstream Republicans worry that some of their candidates represent a profound threat to the future of Republican Party. So do I.
The two-party system has served America well. This contest is less about America and more about the soul of the Republican Party. Notwithstanding all the commotion about Monday’s Iowa caucuses, the darker impulses of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, first and second respectively, received a grand total of almost 100,000 votes.
That’s less than 10 percent of Iowa’s registered voters, hardly representative of America.
But this, thankfully, will pass. Enjoy the big game!
Mike Abrams is former chairman of the Dade Democratic Party, a former state legislator and currently a policy adviser to Ballard Partners.