JDCA’s Closing Argument in Haaretz: Antisemitism Is Now a Key Part of the Republican Agenda for America

November 8, 2022


Toward the end of any election cycle, both parties brace themselves for an “October surprise” – a consequential development that may change the trajectory of key races across the country. For American Jews, this year’s October surprise is the startling normalization of antisemitism.

Hate speech targeting Jews – which has featured prominently in headlines for about four weeks – now feels ubiquitous. It includes antisemitic comments and conspiracy theories espoused by the artist formerly known as Kanye, basketball player Kyrie Irving, former President Donald Trump, and numerous candidates running for office, all on the Republican side.

Unfortunately, the hate doesn’t end there. It also includes a prolific surge in anti-Jewish rhetoric on Twitter, which is incredibly dangerous giving the anonymity of the Internet. It’s what a senior FBI official warned about in 2020, when testifying before Congress about the rise of antisemitism: “The greatest threat we face in the homeland today is that posed by lone actors radicalized online…”

We’ve seen these threats come to fruition in places like Pittsburgh, where an extremist posted and engaged online about the antisemitic “great replacement” theory and then perpetrated the single deadliest antisemitic attack in American history in 2018.

Four years after the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, there’s been a shocking change in how our political leaders react to such antisemitism. Where antisemitic hate speech once triggered near-universal and immediate condemnation across the political spectrum, that is no longer the case. Today’s rise of antisemitism has been largely met with silence, or worse, an embrace or tacit acceptance by the Republican Party.

We saw this after Trump’s ominous warning to Jews in mid-October to “get their act together…before it’s too late,” which not one Republican condemned. Shortly thereafter, Business Insider contacted 38 Republicans, in and out of Congress, to ask why they have been unwilling to publicly reject antisemitism. Their responses included “silence, deflection, and rehashing old statements,” generously summarized as “minimal outcry.”

While extremism may have once been relegated to the fringes of American society, today it has found a political home in the Republican Party. The unprecedented number of GOP extremists running for office in this year’s midterms is evidence. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Extremism, of the 114 midterm primaries involving right-wing extremist candidates, 28 right-wing extremists won and are on the ballot in the general election, demonstrating that “ties to extremist ideologies and groups have ceased to be a political poison pill.”

No longer anathema among Republicans, extremism and antisemitism are clearly features of the Republican strategy to advance their political agenda.

We see examples of right-wing extremists within reach of the Senate in states such as Arizona, where GOP candidate Blake Masters has echoed the antisemitic replacement theory, falsely claiming that Democrats are trying to “change the demographics of our country” and “import a new electorate.”

Missouri’s Republican Senate candidate Eric Schmitt has also accused Democrats of “fundamentally trying to change this country through illegal immigration.” Similarly, Ohio Republican candidate JD Vance also parroted this antisemitic conspiracy theory chanted by the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, accusing Democrats of trying to “transform the electorate.”

The list of extremists on the ballot doesn’t end there, with Haaretz highlighting the 10 most extreme candidates running for office, all Republicans. They also count at least 15 Republican candidates who have publicly defended the QAnon conspiracy theory, with several having attended the January 6 rally that preceded the deadly attack on the Capitol and insurrection.

GOP extremism is not just evidenced by what candidates say and do, but also by their choice of political allies. Republicans such as Doug Mastriano, the gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, and Blake Masters, both have ties to Andrew Torba, the head of Gab, the social media platform of choice for white supremacists and other extremists.

Mastriano’s aide recently denigrated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro by questioning his commitment to Judaism, while Mastriano’s wife – like Trump – attempted to obfuscate antisemitic comments by professing her alleged love of Israel.

The timing of this surge of hate is not coincidental. It corresponds with the midterms because decency and truth are on the ballot, and there is an acute divide between the two parties. Democrats want to defend democracy and keep minorities safe; Republicans attack our democratic institutions, engage in election denial, and embrace, echo and tolerate dangerous forms of extremism including antisemitism. In 2022, it appears that Republicans have adopted Trump’s approach of refusing to condemn white supremacy or ostracize white supremacists “because a lot of these people vote,” as he reportedly asserted in 2016.

Well, Jews vote too, and – according to polling conducted in September by the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute – 92 percent are concerned about antisemitism, and by nearly a three-to-one margin trust Democrats more than Republicans to combat it.

Each of us will make a binary choice when we vote, and nothing less than the future of America’s democracy is at stake. The security and safety of Jews are also on the ballot, with a clear distinction between Democrats’ unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism and Republicans’ craven willingness to use it for political gain.


Halie Soifer is CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA). She previously served as national security advisor in the Senate to Vice President Kamala Harris, as foreign policy advisor to Senator Chris Coons, and as a senior policy advisor to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Twitter: @HalieSoifer