Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

Calling balls and strikes for the pro-Israel community since 2006

July 10, 2022

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • A right-wing extremist with a legally obtained assault weapon murdered seven and injured dozens in my town during the July 4 parade.
  • This might not have happened if Republicans had not blocked reauthorization of the assault weapons ban and other reasonable gun safety legislation.
  • Voting Republican means voting to keep assault weapons legal, voting to make abortions illegal, and surrendering our democracy.
  • If you care about what happened on July 4, if you understand what we celebrate on July 4, then talk to your friends who vote Republican, and do all you can to elect Democrats in November--this is partisan and it is all about politics. What more will it take?
  • Read to the end for upcoming events and fun stuff.

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I've lived in Highland Park for 25 years. Covid forced the cancellation of the 2021 and 2020 Highland Park July 4 parades. Prior to that, my family never missed the parade, either as marchers or spectators, for over two decades. We didn't go this year because we were not in the mood for what we thought would be a fun, upbeat celebration months after our daughter died.

But the parade turned out to be neither fun nor upbeat. On July 4, 2022, seven people in my town were murdered and about three dozen were injured by a right-wing extremist with a legally obtained assault weapon. The gunman previously cased out a Highland Park synagogue.

Had we attended, we would have stood where we usually stand--in front of the building from which the gunman attacked, in front of where the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band was playing, a block away from the deli that serves the best kosher hot dogs in the world.

Mayor Nancy Rotering handled this crisis professionally and compassionately. She has long advocated for gun safety--under her leadership, Highland Park banned assault weapons in 2013 (and won every court challenge).

When Mayor Rotering proposed the assault weapons ban, opponents threatened Highland Park with lawsuits. My response at that city council meeting was quoted in the Chicago Tribune: "We in Highland Park should be proud if this ordinance is challenged, and we should be proud that our tax dollars are spent defending an ordinance that was designed to protect our families, our children, and our community. There is no legitimate reason for anyone to own an assault weapon. The sole purpose of assault weapons is to kill people." I stand by my statement. Unfortunately, the rest of the country did not follow Highland Park's lead.

Our community knows how to care for each other and how to grieve. I learned this first-hand following my daughter's death in February, and we will always be grateful for the love and support we received. The survivors of the July 4 massacre need and are receiving love and support. The Highland Park Community Foundation set up a special page for those who want to offer financial support--unlike some Go Fund Me pages, which can be set up by anyone, we can be sure that this is legitimate because it is an established organization run by people we know and trust in real life.

Taking care of the victims and their families is necessary, but far from sufficient. The U.S. has far more mass shootings than any other country. We have far more guns and far fewer restrictions on gun ownership than any other country. Mental illness is not more prevalent in the U.S. than in other countries. The problem is too many guns. One country has far more mass shootings than any other. One country has far more guns than any other. The cause is obvious.

The answer is to at least ban assault weapons--the assault weapons ban worked when it was in effect ("the risk of a person in the U.S. dying in a mass shooting was 70% lower during the period in which the assault weapons ban was active") and to implement stringent gun safety requirements, including red flag laws, background checks, waiting requirements, licensing, registration, tracking, and more.

But we don't. No matter how many get killed, we don't. Why? Because one party, the Republican Party, opposes all but the most milquetoast gun regulation. The GOP is the reason assault weapons are legal throughout the country. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), my member of Congress, noted that assault weapons "are weapons of war intended to kill as many people as efficiently and as quickly as possible. They have no business in our communities or on our streets."

My State Senator, Julie Morrison, said that "Gun violence has been normalized, and no one is to blame except elected officials who have the power to put their constituents’ lives ahead of the gun lobby, but fail to do so every chance they get. Instead we have a Supreme Court that just put our country on a path to even more guns on our streets and a Congress that’s patting themselves on the back over a watered-down gun reform package that does little to stop the death sentence that is life in America right now for far too many...If you’re not committed to saving lives, then you have absolutely no place in public office."

Yes, now is the time to politicize this. A mass shooting on July 4 at the Highland Park parade should shock us, but by the time you read this it will have already started to fade from the news, replaced perhaps by another, more recent mass shooting. Just another day in the good ole U.S. of A.

These shootings cannot happen without something to shoot with. Isn't that obvious? Gov. JB Pritzker's math cannot be disputed: 100% of mass public shootings happen with guns. But Republicans don't believe in science, so why should they believe in math?

Republicans are blocking gun reform that would prevent or reduce the likelihood of mass shootings. Republican legislators are voted into office--not always by a majority of the voters, but by enough voters. If elections have consequences, then who we vote for in elections has consequences. We need to help our friends understand that regardless of why they vote Republican, they are voting for the party that wants to keep assault weapons legal, make abortions illegal, and undermine our democracy through vote suppression and overturning lawful elections. If that's not why they vote Republican, what is it about the Republican Party that outweighs these considerations?

Some Trump voters just want to stick it to the libs and make America white great again. We can't persuade them. Not all Republicans are white supremacists, but you don't see many white supremacists wearing Biden/Harris t-shirts. Donald Trump, twice nominated for president by the Republican Party, called neo-Nazis and white supremacists "very fine people" when they marched through Charlottesville with tiki torches chanting "Jews will not replace us." Even those Republicans who are not white supremacists are voting for the only party whose leadership condones, if not engages, in antisemitism.

But Republican voters who oppose mass shootings and deplore white supremacy nonetheless vote Republican. They did not pull the trigger. They did not give the shooter a gun. They did not approve of his (it's nearly always "his") actions--not the Republicans we know, anyway. But they elected the members of Congress responsible for the legal system that permitted this to happen.

Maybe they voted Republican for different reasons--maybe they want abortion to be illegal. Maybe they don't think humans cause climate change. Maybe they are not troubled by the GOP's large sedition caucus or its blatant appeals to racism and antisemitism. Or maybe they think cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans is smart economic policy. Regardless of the reason, they voted for the party, the only party, standing in the way of tougher gun safety measures.

What will it take for us to recognize that this is not a game? What will it take for us to recognize that elections matter, which means that we have to talk to how our friends about how they vote? This is not like a passionate but friendly--and ultimately meaningless--disagreement about Cubs vs. Sox or Stones vs. Beatles. This matters. Gov. Pritzker is furious and we should be too. The only way to change the law is to change who we elect, and the only way to change who we elect is to persuade enough Americans to change who they vote for.

What happened in Highland Park on July 4 is living--and dying--proof that one political party is tearing our nation asunder: from attempting to undermine our democracy, to overturning Roe v. Wade, to blocking measures to take assault weapons off the streets, and so much more every day. This is all political. All of it. And we need to wake up and act like our lives depend on the outcome of the November election, because they literally do.

Not every conversation has to be about politics, nor should it. Most political issues, even important issues, are not existential and can be compartmentalized. But if we can't talk to our friends about the consequences of their actions, about decisions they make in the voting booth that could lead to policies that could get us killed, that could force a relative to have an unsafe or lethal abortion, that could lead to the end of our democracy, what kinds of friends are they?

If they are among the small but vocal minority of Jewish Americans who vote Republican because of Israel, remind them that unless they want to keep assault weapons legal and make abortions illegal, they can support Israel by voting Democratic. Democrats in Congress, including progressive Democrats, overwhelmingly support Israel (roughly 96% of all Democrats, including 90% of the 95-member Progressive Caucus, voted for the $1 billion emergency Iron Dome supplemental in September).

If you choose not to talk to them about politics, which is a choice only you can make and a choice that despite the stakes in the upcoming election might be the choice for you, please at least consider doing more, a lot more, to support Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, whether with your time or your money or both. Thoughts and prayers are important but not enough. Posting memes on social media and displaying ribbons and yard signs is not enough. Get involved. The stakes are too high for you to sit on the sidelines.

Feeling stressed? The January 6 investigation and Republican attacks on our democracy demand our attention. A rogue right-wing extremist Supreme Court running amock and the consequences of its decisions, especially but not only Roe v. Wade, demand our attention (next term, the Court will have an opportunity to almost guarantee an end to our democracy). Mass shootings minutes from our homes demand our attention. Climate change. The list seems endless. But the solution to all of these problems is political and the solution is the same: Elect Democrats.

I know that sounds nakedly partisan and partisanship is a turnoff. But it's the truth. The votes in Congress prove it. The best antidote to stress is the perception of agency, and you have a say in what happens next. The question is whether you will be a silent bystander watching our country decline or whether you will exercise your right to vote and your right to influence how others vote. I've made my choice and I can sleep easy. How about you?

Tweets of the Week. David Frum and Jake Maccoby.

Twitter Threads of the Week. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Tracy Lindeman.

Facebook Post of the Week. Joshua Shanes.

Video Clips of the Week. Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and Bye Bye Boris.

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