Anti-semitism and Extremism in the Republican Party | Rory Johnston
The US midterm elections came to an eventual head on Tuesday with the Mississippi Senate vote, marking the end of months of campaigning from a Republican Party that haven’t been afraid to become bedfellows with extremism, whether it be the endorsement of particular candidates or campaigns ads targeting Democrats, racially.
Irony is often an illusion to those running political campaigns, and seems pertinent that yet again in the final race of the autumn elections, the Republicans are once more facing further allegations of extremism, a trend that has somewhat typified their past few months, and even the entire tenure of Donald Trump’s residency in the White House. This time round, it has been Cindy Hyde-Smith who has been caught on recording speaking about her opponent whilst praising a supporter at a rally of hers: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row”. Defendants have again stated that this is the PC mob crying wolf, but it’s somewhat important to place this quote in the context of Mississippi’s dark history with lynching and adverse racism.
Hyde-Smith’s opponent in this Senate race is Mike Espy; former Secretary of Agriculture in Bill Clinton’s cabinet and the first African-American to be elected from Mississippi at the Federal level since Reconstruction. Trump has duly and understandably rushed down to the state for two separate rallies to try to convince the state he won by 18 points in 2016. His fears are understandable too. This ‘special’ runoff election is being held after no clear majority could be secured by either candidate in the initial vote, with reports suggesting that the moderate Espy is within 5 points of Hyde-Smith. Democratic victory and the series of controversies from the GOP candidate could well be cementing this as yet another Republican “d’oh” moment.
It’s somewhat of a shameful indication that a Mississippi candidate making light of public hanging is measured as a “d’oh” moment compared to the rather more insidious GOP endorsed campaigns that were prevalent throughout the midterms.
In a political landscape that has become too familiar to us this side of the pond, anti-Semitism has continued to rear its ugly head, taking front and centre in many of the Republican campaigns. One particular example was used in the race for the Californian state assembly in which GOP candidate, Tyler Diep ran this image in which his opponent, Josh Lowenthal has been tinted green and fanning $100 bills in the face of medical patients. Onlookers can only smirk at the irony of Republican’s accusing Democrats of monetarised healthcare policies. However, mixed with the frightening accusation that Lowenthal’s nostrils have supposedly been enlarged, this poster is rife with anti-Semitic tropes.
In Alaska, the Republican Women of Juneau released an advert attacking the Jewish candidate Jesse Kiehl, with a silhouette of a businessman placing wads of $100 bills into Kiehl’s breast pocket. The ad carried the tagline, “If you give Jesse Kiehl your vote… you may as well give him your wallet”. Despite complaints, the organisation showed no intention of apologising or withdrawing the ad. In the race for the State Senate of Connecticut, Republican candidate Ed Charamut depicted his Jewish opponent Matt Lesser to have eyes that bulge, with a sense of mania as he fed upon $100 bills in an image that conveyed Lesser’s supposed greed. Upon victory, Lesser stated that his victory was a win for those against hate.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Those were just three examples. Anti-Semitic Republican campaign ads were run in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida and Minnesota. This isn’t a small problem. Across the nation there was an outrage at casual racism exploiting anti-Semitic tropes, prevalent with Republican campaign ads.
On the 27th of October, the largest act of anti-Semitic terrorism on American soil took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. 11 innocent worshippers were shot dead, whilst a further 7 were injured. Taking place just days before the midterm elections if seems that especially pertinent to make sure that the issue of anti-Semitism is in the public domain. Previously, accusations that President Trump is a vehicle of anti-Semitism and racism has been viewed by those on the centre-right and some centrists as a trend of sensationalised ad-hominem. Although I’m no supporter of President Trump, I still believe that those who seek to label Trump as a Nazi should read a history book and relearn the extremity of the accusation. Yet, I cannot sit idly by and watch anti-Semitism, or any form of racism espoused by any political party.
The total lack of condemnation from Trump and the senior echelons of the GOP do imply a worrying trend to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of racial tropes in the aim of political gain. The convicted murderer’s vehicle at the Tree of Life massacre was found to be adorned with Trump stickers and imagery. It is patently obvious that without condemnation of these style of ads, Trump cannot continue to suggest that these are unfortunate cases of endorsement for his presidency. Instead, they become emblematic of a support base that he does not actively condemn and seek to distance himself from. Even when running for President, Trump used the Star of David as a part of his depiction of Hillary Clinton’s corruption.
As those who wish to maintain a safe, tolerant and civil society, we must come together and condemn any form of racism. Sadly, in Britain we have witnessed the growing trend of anti-Semitism on our shores, and rightly provided wide scale outrage and criticism. The same must be done by the Republicans. Once one form of racism is normalised, the floodgates will open. Now that the GOP has exploited racist tropes for one election, what’s to say they shan’t continue this trend into the next election? Which racial group will be safe of vitriolic political campaigning? If Trump and the Trumpian GOP want to send a definite message that they are not the party of racial antagonising, they must act now.