I didn't want to blog about Rep. Virgil B. Goode's (R-VA 5th) bizarre declaration that a Muslim Congressman should not be allowed to swear on the Koran in the unofficial, "photo-op" ceremony, and that it's connected to a coming Mulim majority created by illegal immigration, until there was some confirmation that the letter to constituents was real and had not been penned by a mischievous staffer or while Goode was suffering from a deranging illness. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Goode's press aide Linwood Duncan says, "He stands by the letter." I frankly hadn't realized that Goode either is this nuts or (to use my version of Hanlon's Razor) thinks his constituents are this nuts and that this is a good way to solidify his position with them. Goode migrated to the right as many Southern politicians have: he was a Democrat in the 1998 election, an independent when I knocked on doors to ask people not to vote for him in 2000, and has been listed as a Republican in the last three elections. It's a sensible move, as his district mostly is conservative, aside from the chunk that is Charlottesville liberal. But I certainly never got the impression in four years of living in the area that a majority of residents were so intolerant or uninformed as to applaud the sentiments Goode expresses:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped. The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.”In fairness to Rep. Goode, those who keep pointing out that Rep.-elect Ellison is not an immigrant are missing what probably was meant by "The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran." Goode most likely was referring to Ellison's having been elected from a district that has a growing Muslim population -- albeit more from Somalia and Ethiopia than the Middle East -- and one that has been in conservative news lately. Goode fears that a Muslim in Congress is a harbinger of the day when Muslims are sufficiently large in number as to destroy "the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America."
Again, in right-wing media this hardly is an uncommon concern; opposition to Ellison's swearing on the Koran was touched off by Dennis Prager, whose idea of a compromise was "The Bible is the repository of our values, not the Constitution... and I'm asking him to honor that and include the Bible along with the Koran." However, I'm surprised that Goode's press folks haven't followed the matter closely enough to realize that even among Republicans, Prager's position is a fairly marginal one; he has been disagreed with by everyone from Sen. Norm Coleman to Rep. Tom Tancredo (a prominent immigration opponent) to several of his fellow conservative columnists.
While illegal immigration is of concern to voters, albeit more in Northern Virginia than in the southeast, I suspect that like Sen. George Allen, Rep. Goode has overestimated the xenophobia of his audience. There are some plausible fears for him to fan, such as that of Border Agents unable to do their jobs, or a U.S. too closely linked to Canada and Mexico, but terror of an Islamic horde overrunning America isn't one of them.