You’d think it difficult to supersede Madison Cawthorn as the greatest disgrace to North Carolina currently serving without honor in our delegation to the U.S. Congress, but Greg Murphy has got the young man beat. Joining in a twitter mob against Rep. Ilhan Omar, the congressman from NC’s Third District intoned, “[the latest Capitol assault] would have been worse @ilhan if they had been flying planes into the buildings also.” In saying that Murphy smeared Representative Omar as an apologist for al Qaeda, a low blow that would never have been dealt if not for Omar’s Islamic faith.
In his tweet, Murphy drew from a deep well of ethnic scapegoating. The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed to squelch a supposed Fifth Column among French immigrants in the midst of an outburst of Francophobia, and legalized the internment of immigrants. Attacks on German-American immigrants recurred throughout the Midwest after President Woodrow Wilson declared war on the Kaiser. In the next world war, thousands of Japanese Americans would be unjustly swept into the nation’s rage against Imperial Japan after Pearl Harbor and put into those internment camps authorized by the Alien and Sedition Acts. The scapegoating of Muslim Americans for 9/11 was merely the latest episode in this history of de-nationalization and xenophobia.
Murphy, no historian, is probably unaware of his accusation’s dubious roots. Instead, he seems driven by knee-jerk bigotry toward women of color, immigrants, and their daughters. When Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as the first Black woman (and daughter of immigrants) to serve on a national ticket, Murphy complained that Harris only received the selection because of her race and gender. In his prejudiced mind, service as San Francisco District Attorney, California Attorney General, and U.S. Senator cannot cancel out the inherent unworthiness of a woman of color.
Representative Murphy’s regular broadsides at people-unlike-him do not exactly contradict stereotypes about our state. It was, after all, in Murphy’s district that a Trumpist mob chanted “Send her back!” when their president engaged in his favored pastime of pillorying Ilhan Omar, the very woman now targeted for Islamophobic attacks by the man those same voters elected to Congress. (With Trump’s copious assistance.) It seems that we do indeed get the politicians we deserve.
To say that no American politician would have openly flaunted their Islamophobia before Trump is revisionist history. Representative Peter King held an entire hearing dedicated to the supposed mass radicalization of American Muslims. In North Carolina, former Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest hired as his policy director a former operative from ACT for America, a group of anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. But in the years prior to the Trump presidency, there were countervailing winds in the Republican coalition. President George W. Bush visited a mosque after 9/11, and Governor Chris Christie appointed a Muslim American to the New Jersey bench.
Now, in contrast, the response to Greg Murphy’s hate from the Republican establishment has been stone silence. He is the perfect representative of the openly racist, anti-immigrant and religiously intolerant populist mass movement that has taken over what many years ago called itself the Party of Lincoln. Today every Republican–and every North Carolinian–should hang their heads in shame.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.