[Ed. – Related question: Who will stop Dems’ incessant complaint that Republicans are Islamophobic because they fear radical Islamic terrorist?]
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Islamophobia has become a powerful and divisive issue in American politics. The two main political parties are increasingly defining themselves by sharply different rhetoric and policies on the treatment of Muslims, both in the United States and internationally. These issues dominated the Republican debate, and are likely to be equally important when the Democratic candidates take the stage on Saturday.
How did Islamophobia become a litmus test dividing the two parties? The answer long precedes the candidacy of Donald Trump.
As recently as the presidency of George W. Bush, Republican elites successfully clamped down on Islamophobia. As Duke University sociologist Christopher Bail points out in his book Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream, the 9/11 attacks led to the American public as a whole becoming more positively disposed to Islam. In a poll conducted in 2000, 45 percent of Americans has a favorable view of Islam. This figure rose to 59 percent by November of 2001, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. This shift in public attitude occurred because President Bush and the elites in his party were vocal in insisting that America was at war not with Islam, but with a jihadi fringe.