How important is warning about encroaching sharia to the modern conservative electorate? Judging by attacks Tea Party favorite Herman Cain has suffered since reaching out to American Muslims, pretty darn important.
Since shifting gears from his role as the campaign’s pied-piper of sharia to the guy who may actually preach at a mosque someday soon, Cain has suffered the slings and arrows of his supporters and prominent voices on the anti-sharia right. He’s also been lauded by some supporters, but it seems clear that, in aggregate, the new more tolerant Cain has not gone over well.
The best place to start is Cain’s own Facebook page. Within minutes of the campaign posting Cain’s long and contrite statement apologizing for his past rhetoric about American Muslims on the campaign trail, supporters started to hate online. Here are some screengrabs of the Facebook comments captured by TPM on July 27, the day the statement went up.
And here’s a quick sampling of what the critics had to say:
“it’s all or nothing with the muslim religion…no means no…please stand firm Mr Cain please or run on the democrat ticket”
“what in heaven’s name are you doing? Don’t you know you can’t trust ONE WORD that comes from their mouth? they’re lying to get on your good side, Mr. Cain! :/”
“You are sounding more and more like a politician every day. what happened to May 20th Herman Cain???? You said what you said because you believe what you said. Just own it and move forward. This strategy is insanity.”
“Jesus Christ Herman !! That just makes you look like you are guilty of something! You have NOTHING to worry about… the American Voter understands what you were saying and in the context you said it!! So you had to go to Islamic rehab and get your infidel re-education.”
There were some supporters, too. Here’s an example:
“Why don’t you all get off his Mr. Cain’s back??….you sound like babies….”
Of course, anyone who’s ever written anything online is used to commenters instantly jumping on their digital high horses. But many of the commenters on Cain’s page were clearly moved by Cain’s pre-apology stance on American Islam (which, it should be noted, he didn’t completely divest himself of in the apologetic release) and they were shocked and upset by Cain’s decision to reach out to the Muslims.
So, too, were some of the more prominent anti-sharia voices on the right. Over at the conservative network PajamasMedia, blogger Ryan Mauro raised the specter of the Muslim Brotherhood — which he wrote is connected with the Northern Virgina mosque whose staff and imam Cain met with. The mosque is actually quite popular with government officials, having hosted Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough in March.
But as far as Mauro sees it, the place is a hotbed of sharia encroachment.
“If Herman Cain wants to be the darling of the anti-Islamist voters in the Republican primary, he has shot himself in the foot,” he wrote.
Frank Gaffney, perhaps the best-known sharia-phobe out there, also questioned Cain’s commitment to the cause after the Republican set foot in ADAMS.
“It’s one of those things, it’s a very problematic departure from what I think had been a generally sensible… I don’t agree everything he has said and some of the positions he has taken, but I think generally speaking he’s been forthright in raising a concern that I think is warranted,” he told a reporter from ThinkProgress in Denver. “And if in fact he’s now changed his position in ways that are being reported, that’s even more troubling than if he was spending time with Muslim Brothers.”
Asked about the controversies raised by Gaffney and the response on Facebook, the Cain campaign declined to comment.
“I would just refer you back to our statement [of July 27],” spokesperson Ellen Carmichael told TPM. She said that “commenters on Facebook are free to post what they want” and declined to answer questions about how Cain’s change of heart on American Islam has been received on the campaign trail.
Cain still leads Gallup’s voter intensity rankings, designed to show what the voters who know about Cain (who still has a relatively low name ID) think of him. And on the campaign trail, Cain’s suggesting he’ll finish very strong in the Ames straw poll August 13. So it seems he doesn’t think the haters will have much of an effect.
Whether his numbers rise, fall or remain constant, it will be an interesting indication of just how strong anti-Muslim sentiment may or may not be within the Tea Party.