Incidents of anti-Semitism are on the rise in the US, up 57 percent in 2017, the largest single increase on record since the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) started tracking incidents in 1979. The ADL classifies anti-Semitism as, “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.” According to their most recent audit, the majority of incidents have appeared at schools and on college campuses and have doubled for the second year in a row.
What is driving these incidents? The report draws conclusions that should be obvious to just about anyone who has been alive since President Trump has been elected, but among other things, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, Chief Executive of the ADL gave the New York Times three main reasons: the divisive state of US politics, an emboldening of extremists, and the adverse impacts of social media. All of which culminated last summer during the Unite the Right rally when white supremacists marauded through Charlottesville chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” (a Nazi slogan).
While these incidents would have been an outlier in a previous political era, the full Republican embrace of President Trump has normalized the kinds of racism and anti-Semitism now on the rise. His claims that there were some “very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville” (one side being the Nazi side), gave agency to white supremacists and nationalists who’s anti-Semitism directly comprises their core ideology, and has empowered a new group of GOP candidates to run for office, namely Nazis and anti-Semites.
So here we are, in a political age where white supremacy, nationalism, and anti-Semitism is becoming normative and mainstreamed as a political tactic to ensure Trump’s base stays ever loyal. Have a look at some of the mid-term contests this season where the GOP ticket is actually being held by a Nazi, anti-Semite, or someone who has been in direct support of white nationalists, supremacists, or anti-Semites.
Arthur Jones is a member of the American Nazi Party who is running in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District and has referred to Jewish teachings as “satanic”. On his campaign website he legit has a section titled “Holocaust?”, and refers to the death of six million Jews as a “racket” and claims, “This idea that ‘six million Jews,’ were killed by the National Socialist government of Germany, in World War II, is the biggest, blackest, lie in history.”
In June he told told Politico that he “snookered” the Republican Party into winning the nomination. “I played by the rules, what could I say?” Some notable Republicans denounced his candidacy including Senator Ted Cruz who tweeted, “To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat. This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.” While the Illinois GOP was publicly aghast with horror at what their party has become – refusing to endorse Jones – he still ran unopposed and collected 20,681 votes from Republicans in his district. Fox News claims the Illinois GOP will start a campaign for a write in candidate–don’t hold your breath waiting.
Regardless, this only highlights the continued disconnect between what the GOP base has come to assume their political agency is in the age of Trump versus the normative conservative policies preferred by status-quo Republicans, yet impossible to have it both ways in this new era of extremist politics.
Fitzgerald is running in California’s 11th District against an incumbent Democrat. After capturing close to quarter of all votes in California’s “jungle primary” he qualified for the state’s GOP primary. However, soon after his ascension to the hallowed ranks of the GOP, his anti-Semitism and holocaust denial started to become somewhat an unmanageable open secret – thanks to a section on his campaign website – basically just the top post of his website – offering $3,000 to anyone who can prove the holocaust actually happened.
Since the Republican Party in California finally uncovered Fitzgerald’s not so subtle anti-Semitism they have rescinded their endorsement, which has led him to only increase his Jewish resentment. According to the New York Times, the GOP Candidate has appeared on numerous podcasts spewing holocaust denial. In one such instance he told Andrew Carrington Hitchcock, a known anti-Semite, that, “Everything we’ve been told about the Holocaust is a lie,” going on to further say, “my entire campaign, for the most part, is about exposing this lie.”
The GOP in California claimed that it was their policy to automatically endorsed their candidate and that they conducted minimal vetting on Fitzgerald. But in the age of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and the mainstreaming of the alt-right, which is heavily intoxicated on anti-Semitism, this no longer seems like a solvent policy. What do they say about assumptions? The mother of all anti-Semitic fuck ups?
This Republican is making his second attempt to to fill the largely diminished shoes of soon to be retired Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District seat. In a not unfamiliar twist of GOP identity politics, Nehlen has described himself as a “pro-white” candidate who supports banning all Muslims and tweeted a deeply racist and offensive picture of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, where she is photoshopped, according to Ballotpedia, to look like a “dark-skinned prehistoric man nicknamed Cheddar Man.” Shortly thereafter on a subtweet he posted an article about “disappearing whites”, the whole incident led him to be banned from Twitter.
Nehlen’s anti-Semitism, however, is rooted in the age old conspiracy theories of Jews controlling global media. As far back as January this year, Buzzfeed uncovered communications on private Twitter DMs where he is lamenting the “Jewish media” and fake conservatives who “happen to be Jewish.” A short time later he essentially doxxed Jewish executives at leading media organizations, along with Tweeting out a meme of said executives with the star of David next to their image. Nehlen wrote, “Do the people pictured seem to have anything in common?” before deleting the tweet.
The Atlantic has also covered his fusion of anti-Semitism with Christian identity politics, reporting, “And he loves making odd generalizations about what Jews are like. ‘”Poop, incest, and pedophilia. Why are those common themes repeated so often with Jews?'” he tweeted. One of Nehlen’s 89,000 followers declared that “@pnehlen is one of the few American Christians courageous and honest enough to defend the Faith against Islamists and Talmudic Pharisees alike even when it’s unpopular. God bless you, Paul!” Nehlen hit retweet.”
Last and of course not least, there is the Commonwealth’s very own Corey Stewart, who is running against incumbent Senator Tim Kaine. Stewart’s stances on Confederate culture, immigration, and his public appearances with Jason Kessler, the organizer of Unite the Right, makes his candidacy the embodiment of the kinds of racism and anti-Semitism that has now overtly taken over the GOP.
And in a strange twist of fate, CNN reported that Stewart actually engaged Wisconsin’s Nehlan (mentioned above) to act as a “fundraising commission” according to reports filed with the Virginia Department of Elections. Additionally a video surfaced of the GOP contender praising Nehlan, calling him “one of my personal heroes”. Stewart has since dialed back his support, which is clearly an attempt at political expediency claiming, “When he started saying all that crazy stuff, I wanted nothing to do with him after that.” He also made similar claims about Kessler telling the New York Times, “Nobody knew who Kessler was back then…Certainly I didn’t. I didn’t know he stood for all those horrible things. I want nothing to do with those things.”
Given Stewart’s long history of support for racists, xenophobes, and anti-Semitic provocateurs only changing direction after they have been exposed, it is hard to imagine a scenario where he is not a believer in the underlying ideologies that govern this growing political menace. Stewart is a shrewd operator only touching the fringes of anti-Semitism without jumping in full-stop, yet the implication and dog-whistles remain the same.
Anti-Semitism is one of the world’s oldest forms of hatred and one that has been used over the millennia to justify some of the most repressive and brutal policies, ending in gross atrocities like the holocaust. Anti-Semitism does not exist in a vacuum, however, and the mainstreaming of holocaust denial, conspiracy theories, and overt attacks against Jews and Jewish symbols by candidates running for high office is a harbinger for anyone concerned with how this political age is shaping up.