December 11, 2022
- Trump is relevant because he is the likely 2024 GOP nominee for president, yet despite a history of antisemitic rhetoric, a dinner with two virulent antisemites, and a call to terminate the Constitution, few Republicans have condemned him and only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has ruled out supporting him if he wins the 2024 nomination. Trump's attack against Jews on Friday was met with silence from Republicans.
- GOP primaries are determined by the kind of people who thought Herschel Walker would be a better senator than Raphael Warnock; in other words, Trump's base.
- The Republican Party is the political home of antisemitism. Leading House Republicans have engaged in antisemitic rhetoric and have never apologized.
- The sooner we stop pretending that this is a "both sides" problem, the sooner we can start taking the fight against antisemitism seriously. Antisemitism exists on the left, but while the Democratic Party condemns and marginalizes antisemitism in its ranks, the GOP condones and supports it.
- That there exists no equivalence between the parties is an inconvenient fact for organizations that celebrate the appearance of bipartisanship, but if we want genuine bipartisanship, then Republicans should join Democrats and unite around condemning antisemitism from Donald Trump and other Republican leaders, and Jewish organizations should focus on calling out the most significant antisemitic threats, not minimizing the threat from Republicans in the name of balance.
Read to the end for upcoming events and fun stuff, including a pre-Shabbat White House briefing for the Jewish community on antisemitism this Friday.
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Donald Trump matters. We might not like it. We'd love to move on and treat his rants with nothing but the mockery they deserve. But as long as he remains a viable, if not likely, candidate to win the GOP nomination for president, we must take him seriously and demand that the Republican Party do the same.
Never in our history has the leader of a political party engaged in the blatant, public antisemitism that Trump regularly engages in (Trump's assertion that "Hitler did a lot of good things" was made in private). Never in our history has a former president--or any major party presidential nominee--called for terminating the Constitution. Yet Trump remains the front-runner and clear favorite for the GOP nomination for president in 2024.
Trump’s antisemitic tropes weren’t enough to deny him the GOP nomination for President of the United States in 2016 or 2020. During his presidency, not one Republican in Congress condemned him for any of his antisemitic remarks, nor did any of his cabinet members (including both of his U.N. ambassadors), nor did his vice president.
Not one GOP senator and representative who signed a letter to President Biden last week calling for the development of a unified national strategy to monitor and combat antisemitism criticized Trump for any of his antisemitic remarks while he was president, and few have commented, let alone condemned, Trump's meeting with Ye and Fuentes.
The Republicans who signed this letter signed a good letter, but don't let that fool you into thinking they are our allies in the fight against antisemitism, not as long as they are unwilling to call out antisemitism in the leadership of their own party. The Republican signatories include enemies of democracy who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election hours after Trump incited an insurrection.
The House GOP signatories recently voted to elect four Republicans with histories of antisemitic rhetoric to leadership positions (see below). The Republican co-chairs of the Senate and House Bipartisan Task Forces for Combating Antisemitism have never condemned Trump for his antisemitic rhetoric. Yet we accept this rank hypocrisy as par for the course.
We must weigh the value of having Republicans join Democrats in condemning antisemitism against the cost of drafting letters and resolutions that omit key antisemitic threats to allow Republicans to sign and giving Republicans complicit in antisemitism a fig leaf to hide behind.
It wasn’t until Trump met with Ye and Fuentes that a handful of Republicans (most still remain silent) said that the meeting was not a good idea or was wrong, but only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has ruled out supporting Trump for president in 2024. Every member of a normal political party, liberal or conservative, would find dining with antisemites and calling for termination of the Constitution disqualifying.
You want bipartisanship? Demand that both parties condemn antisemitic rhetoric from politicians, starting by condemning the most powerful politicians, such as Donald Trump. Surely we can all unite around that, right Steve? If Trump attacks Jews again and again (he did it again on Friday), then all Jewish organizations must demand that both parties condemn Trump again and again.
If we want both sides to condemn their own side, then demand that Republicans start doing it--it's no excuse that so much antisemitism comes from the Republican side of the aisle and so little comes from the Democratic side. But the better approach is for all Americans to condemn antisemitism no matter where it comes from: Let the chips fall where they may, and if they all turn out to be from the same party, so be it.
Condemning antisemitism in all forms and from all sources is a hollow exercise if it means conflating different threat levels. Setting up false equivalencies by naming a Democrat every time a Republican is named, as if antisemitic rhetoric from a Democratic member of Congress, real or imagined, is on the same plane as antisemitic rhetoric from Republican leadership, makes a mockery of the fight against antisemitism. Reaching back decades to find Democratic politicians in the same room as people known for antisemitic rhetoric to distract attention from Trump sitting down to dinner with two virulent antisemites this month fails even as whataboutism.
Republicans cannot bring themselves to unequivocally condemn the ongoing antisemitism of the favorite for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Whether they agree with Trump or they are afraid of Trump, the conclusion is the same: Voting Republican is complicity in antisemitism.
It's not only Republicans. Too many mainstream Jewish organizations can't bring themselves to call out Trump by name. They speak out against Ye and Fuentes, and good for them, but those two have nowhere near the power and influence of a President of the United States.
Failing to sound the alarm about a Republican Party infected with antisemitism, including calling out Trump by name for his antisemitism is more than a dereliction of duty. As long as only Democrats are calling out Republicans for condoning and engaging in antisemitism, Republicans can dismiss legitimate condemnations as "partisanship," and we know what a bad word that is. Organizations that treat antisemitism in the political sphere as a "both sides" problem are effectively exonerating the Republican Party, and their donors are probably fine with that.
But Jewish Americans know better: Recent polling shows that while 92% of Jewish voters are concerned about antisemitism, they trust Democrats more than Republicans to fight it by a 52-20% margin. By a 61-24% margin, Jewish voters are more concerned about antisemitism originating from right-wing groups and individuals than from left-wing groups and individuals.
Comparing antisemitism in the Democratic and Republican parties is like comparing snowfall in Jerusalem and Chicago. Yes, it’s true: Both cities have snow. But c'mon. If you’re concerned about snow, you should be much more concerned about Chicago than Jerusalem. You're not going to dismiss three feet of snow in Chicago by saying, "well, what about that dusting in Jerusalem last winter." The GOP is buried in antisemitism and refuses to dig itself out.
The equivalent of Donald Trump in the Democratic Party in terms of power and influence is Joe Biden, not a few members of Congress completing their first or second terms. The equivalent of Kevin McCarthy on the Democratic side is Speaker Nancy Pelosi and incoming Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. And if--as is true--Biden, Pelosi, and Jeffries have evidenced no antisemitism in their long careers, the answer is not to mute our criticism of Trump and McCarthy, nor is the answer to fish for someone, anyone, on the Democratic side of the aisle to create the illusion of fairness. The answer is to call out the Republican Party for what it is: The political home of antisemitism in America.
Leading Republicans are guilty not only of silence on Trump's antisemitism but of their own antisemitic rhetoric.
- Republicans reelected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), an election denier, as their House Leader. In 2018, McCarthy posted and then deleted an antisemitic tweet about Jewish money in politics following outcry from the Jewish community. He not only never apologized, but he doubled down by refusing to admit it was antisemitic. His Republican colleagues responded not by censuring him, asking him to resign, or stripping him of committee assignments, but by electing him Leader. (Republicans seem to have a thing for this antisemitic trope--in that same election cycle, at least six Republicans ran ads featuring Jews clutching cash.)
Republicans elected Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) House Majority Leader. Scalise is an election denier who blamed “radical, Soros-backed elements of the Democratic Party” for violence against Republicans in 2018 and described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”
- On the Senate side, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently refused to directly condemn Replacement Theory. Adam Serwer explains how this racist theory entered the Republican mainstream, which helps explain Trump's characterization of marchers carrying tiki torches chanting "Jews will not replace us" as "very fine people."
No equivalent exists on the Democratic side of the aisle. The sooner we stop pretending that this is a "both sides" problem, the sooner we can start taking the fight against antisemitism seriously. That doesn't mean we ignore antisemitism from the left. It means that we adopt a zero-tolerance stance toward antisemitic rhetoric from our leaders even if that means condemning the leadership of only one party and applauding the leadership of the other party for working, as Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff did last week, with Jewish organizations to fight antisemitism.
Last Week's Newsletter.
ICYMI. Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the J Street National Conference.
Tweets of the Week. LOLGOP and Halie Soifer.
Classic Tweet of the Week. Chelsea Pope does Kyrsten Sinema.
Video Clips of the Week. Michael Davis and Tim Miller.
Advice of the Week: Republicans, it’s okay not to thank Biden for bringing down gas prices.
Upcoming Event: A Pre-Shabbat Briefing for the American Jewish Community. On Friday, December 16 at 11:00 CT, White House Liaison to the Jewish Community Shelley Greenspan will be in conversation with Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, as she shares about her recent travels, reflections since joining the State Department, and addresses the global rise in antisemitism. RSVP for the webinar here.
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