The GOP Primary race this election cycle has been interesting to say the least. From comparing every incidence to Nazis (Dr. Carson does that on a regular basis) to actually appropriating Nazi ideas into policy i.e. database and ID cards for Muslim Americans (Mr. Trump believes that is a great idea). To the outside world this seems insanity and makes no sense but to anyone who is a political observer of the primary process and the American politics, this makes complete sense.
Fact is that significant parts of America have strong underlying fear of the other. Be it immigrants, minorities or anyone else. The fear stems from various sources and culminates in to an undercurrent of racism, bigotry and confusion. To understand what is going on in the US primary race and why insane statements are being taken seriously and even appreciated, one has to focus on who the audience is for these statements.
The early primary states that eventually decide who is left in the race for the GOP nomination are Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Demographically speaking, Iowa is 3.1 million people with a 92% Caucasian population, less than 7% minorities and over 63% population identifying as religious. New Hampshire is 1.3 million people with 94% Caucasians. South Carolina is crucial in the Deep South with a population of 4.8 Million people out of whom 68% are Caucasians while 27% are African Americans. South Carolina has 5.6% unemployment rate while Iowa is 3.5% and NH is 3.3%. The reason I went over these numbers is to point out a trend. Except South Carolina, the two early primary states have most of the population living outside major cities. The sets of issues that are close to the populations are different. None of these states has an immigrant problem but in at least the first two states i.e. Iowa and New Hampshire, GOP has had a tough time winning the state during the Presidential Elections.
In view of this, what is happening this election cycle is that insurgent republican candidates, who are not career politicians, are doing great in winning the hearts and minds of GOP Primary goers in Iowa and New Hampshire because they are mainstreaming the underlying biases and politically incorrect statements that people feel they cannot make anymore because the US is changing too fast. What Trump and Carson have been capitalizing on is the fact that these populations are holding on to the idea of ‘good old times’ circa 1980s when it was okay to call someone the N word, where it was okay to be a little racist because who isn’t? But then things changed significantly and while the coasts evolved in to bastions of liberal ideology, social conservatism mixed with economic conservatism found its home in the heartland. What the GOP has relied on to hold the heartland is create this sense of the other. Majority of the heartland i.e. area between the coasts, is mostly Caucasian. This is Fox News territory that demonizes minorities are criminals and builds stereotypes about everyone else. This has been fundamental for the GOP to hold on to power in the House of Representatives.
So when Trump makes a statement like Muslims in the US need to be put through the same things Jews were put through by the Nazis, he is doing so based on a calculated assumption that it will play out well with the primary voters most of whom have never met a Muslim or even seen a mosque in person. Their understanding of what Muslims are is based on what they see on Fox or even CNN. Similarly when Dr. Ben Carson talks about immigrants and path to citizenship, it plays out extremely well for this population group is because all their perceptions of immigration are based on how that has changed America. The narrative they know and understand is the immigration acted as catalyst for all these changes to the US that they are not up to speed with. In a manner of speaking, the situation is basically a large group of people who are afraid to be left behind and made irrelevant because their country is changing too fast. And that is natural and happens in all countries that undergo significant changes while a significant part of the population resides outside metropolitan areas.
So while Marco Rubio, Trump, Carson and even Ted Cruz will say things that will be shocking for any outsider looking in, understand that all these statements are politically calculated moves that serve a very specific purpose that is winning the primary states. It is also crucial in further polarizing the US population as the future of the GOP depends on a politically sorted electorate. And while momentarily things will get tough for minorities in the US, the good thing about the system is the constitution is airtight and eventually perseveres. So sit back, enjoy the greatest reality show on the planet; The GOP Primary Season.