You may be wondering what you can do in this terrible time, with raging anti-Semitism
and racism infecting our political discourse. Last weekend's tragic shooting at a synagogue in
Pittsburgh is believed to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, but it is only the
culmination of a recent surge of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks in this country that began five
years ago. The Anti-Defamation League’s 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents reported a 57%
increase in incidents in the U.S. over 2016, the largest single-year rise on record. Jewish
schoolchildren have been the most frequent targets of the rising tide of violent threats.
While anti-Semitism has always lurked in some dark corners of U.S. political discourse,
in the past few years it has seeped into mainstream conversations. Commentators have observed
that anti-Semitism has featured frequently, often slightly disguised, in the remarks of President
Trump. Trump famously said there were “some very fine people” among the neo-Nazi Unite-the-
Right marchers in Charlottesville in August 2017, who shouted “Jews will not replace us.” On
the very evening of the murders in Pittsburgh, after offering a few conciliatory thoughts, he once
again launched into a diatribe against a prominent Jew: his neo-conservative critic, Bill Kristol.
The neo-Nazi right and most of the crowd likely read meaning into the President’s selection of
Kristol as a rhetorical target that evening. Was Trump signaling that, although he was being
forced to say a few soft words, his alliance with anti-Semites remains as strong as ever?
Anti-Semitism among leading Republicans is not limited to Trump. A week before the
shootings, Steve Scalise, Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, tweeted that “George
Soros-backed elements” were ”taking over” the Democratic Party, with the result that acts of
“violence” were being committed against Republicans. Soros is of Jewish heritage, and Scalise
singled out him for this baseless attack rather than other prominent Democratic supporters.
Scalise is likely to move up to Majority Leader if the Republicans hold the House in the midterm
The dangers of this kind of talk are now manifest. Trump’s attacks against other groups
have also been followed by violence. He recently claimed that African-Americans have a “low
I.Q.” and called them “dogs.” On Oct. 25, a shooter killed two African-Americans at random in
Kentucky, then reportedly assured a bystander that he wasn’t going to shoot anyone who was
white. The same week, another angry extremist sent pipe bombs to more than a dozen prominent
Democratic politicians and supporters, including George Soros and Tom Steyer, two wealthy
Jewish targets of Presidential tweets. Some of bombs were addressed to the care of CNN,
frequent and favorite media target of the President.
What can you do to push back against this surge in violent hatred? First, speak out
whenever you encounter it. If someone raises a conspiracy charge against a Jewish person –
“they’re financing the caravan, they’re paying protesters in the streets; they’re bankrolling
attacks on Republicans” – call it out for what it is: anti-Semitism. If someone insults an African-
American, call it out as racism. Civility does not require silence in the face of incitement to
Next, work to reform our nation’s disgraceful gun laws. There will always be some
unbalanced people. They should not have access to guns, and especially not to assault rifles.
And finally, a step you can take immediately is to vote Democratic on November 6. While some
Republican commentators, especially neoconservatives, have opposed the Republican Party’s
outreach to the right-wing fringe, many Republican politicians in addition to Trump, such as
Scalise, have enthusiastically embraced it. Republican politicians will not meaningfully reject the
anti-Semitism and other types of ethnic hatred promoted by the right-wing fringe unless and until
they suffer losses, and large ones, at election time.
So, vote. Virginia has identification requirements, but they are not onerous for most
people. A driver’s license or passport with your local address will do.
Make a plan to vote on November 6. Find out where your polling place is. Then schedule the time to cast your ballot. The polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., and the polls stay open until everyone who
was in line at 7:00 p.m. has voted.