With the 2018 elections “moments” away, it’s impossible not to comment on the horrors of last week’s murder of Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and the attempted bombing assassinations of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, former Democratic officials, critics of President Trump, and CNN. These horrible and terrifying acts are unequivocally part of the election.
The attack on the synagogue, killing 11 worshippers and wounding six others, was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in our history. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), anti-Semitic incidents increased nearly 60 percent in 2017; the largest single-year increase on record. While this may be coincidental, it coincides with Donald Trump being president.
President Trump said all the right things in condemning the attack as “pure evil.” However (there always seems to be a “however” when discussing the president’s comments), this is the same president who said of the Charlottesville rally, where neo-Nazis shouted, “Jews will not replace us,” that there were bad people on “both sides.” There were definitely not bad people on both sides, and neo-Nazis are haters who deny the Holocaust. President Trump has Jewish grandchildren, so it’s plausible he is not an anti-Semite. Regardless, what is crystal clear is that he has and will continue to court and empower, by his words and actions, his base which includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right. Members of his base are now killing people and sending bombs to his critics.
After Pittsburgh, where an anti-Semite shouted “death to all Jews,” and the murder of nine African-Americans worshipping at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist telling his victims, “I have to do it. You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country,” some houses of worship ( along with schools) are tragically having to resort to having armed guards. However, this is not something the President of the United States should have advocated immediately after a hate crime mass murder. Instead, he should have “doubled down” (as he is prone to do) on his “hate is evil” comment.
The reason this is part of the upcoming elections is that the Republicans in Congress have not called the president out on his campaign of bigotry. When you cast your votes on November 6, think about Trump’s anti rhetoric, directed against Hispanic, transgender, African-American, and immigrant peoples, and the fact that none of this has been condemned by Congressional Republicans. Trump let an ugly, angry genie out of the bottle, and it cast its spell on his supporters.
Bigotry is not new to the U.S. In some ways, we are still fighting the Civil War, with combatants spread throughout the country instead of being localized in the North and South. What is new is a president using bigotry for political gain (there are no Middle Easterners, as he says, in the caravan of immigrants seeking a better life trying to reach the U.S.). Whether a check will be placed on this official use of hate for political gain by the White House will be decided on November 6.
If the Democrats take control of either or both houses of Congress, there will be a strong institutionalized response to this new American phenomenon. If they do not, it’s the status quo. Political pundits under the current all-Republican government are virtually the only ones with the bandwidth to counteract and/or respond to the president’s lies, misstatements, and divisive behavior. A Democratic Congress would have the ability in public to hold hearings, subpoena witnesses, and examine polices. This kind of oversight was built into our constitutional democracy in large part to counteract the “Bully Pulpit” when it veers out of control.
This brings us to the attempted pipe bombings and CNN, and the president’s mantra of the press being the “Enemy of the People.” The alleged bomber is a Trump supporter with a van, where he made the bombs while advertising his support for Trumpism. It is impossible not to connect these attempted assassinations to the president’s base and his anti-CNN rhetoric. Again, while one cannot personally connect the president to the bomber, it’s impossible not to connect his actions and rhetoric to the bomber. He habitually characterizes CNN and his critics in the media as “fake news.” His “enemy of the people” characterization is a perverted first in our history. The alleged bomber took it to heart (with “CNN sucks” on the back of his van) and sent a package of destruction right into the heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press. This alone is a compelling reason to vote Democratic on November 6.
Obviously, the media is not the “enemy of the people” as the president is conditioning his supporters to believe. The fact that Donald Trump can’t abide the criticism is a compelling reason to ensure a Democratic check on his power. We are witnessing journalists across the world being murdered and imprisoned by dictators and autocrats. It’s hard not to connect his rhetoric, heard around the world, to their behavior.
It’s painful to have heard a 6-year-old child crying for her mother after being separated by the Trump administration, and now a 15-year-old woman having to realize that anti-Semitism is here today, not just something that happened in history. The only way to tamp down the president’s hate rhetoric is to utilize the two methods given to us by the Framers: Congressional oversight (that actually investigates), and Freedom of the Press to call out lies and hate when it surfaces. The Republicans will not exercise the oversight power. The president will not stop using hate to empower his base. Those issues will be on the ballot November 6.