Mosque Politics

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Noam Scheiber argues that Obama’s position is both popular and may motivate his base. This seems like wishful thinking. It’s true that most Americans back “the right to build the mosque/Islamic center near Ground Zero” while questioning its appropriateness. But that’s the position of most Republicans; in fact, it’s closer to their position than it is to Obama’s. (Now maybe that position is not coming across to the public because some Republicans are going further and their critics are lumping them all together; I haven’t seen any evidence on the point.)

Scheiber writes, “By speaking out on behalf of the Park51 project, Obama may have reminded his base why they fell in love with him in the first place, and made it a bit more likely that they turn out in the fall.” But the base seems more dismayed by Obama’s ducking of the question of the mosque’s appropriateness than thrilled by his support for the constitutional right to build it. At least that’s the impression you get from the op-ed page, where that line has been taken by most people from David Broder on leftward.

I think Norm Ornstein gets the politics about right: This controversy is marginally harmful to the Democrats, especially because it makes it harder for them to change the conversation in their favor this month–something they badly need to do.

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