Being an American Jew nowadays feels like being trapped in an old TV episode “The Twilight Zone.” We have a United States president who refuses to condemn white supremacists, who march and chant anti-Semitic slogans in Charlottesville, Virgina. His White House snubs Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day, in the name of “inclusiveness.” He runs election ads that imply that our community is part of a “globalist” conspiracy to sell out the country to hostile foreign powers, and so on and so forth.
Fortunately, American Jews and fellow Americans can escape this waking nightmare by going to the polls this November. We must say no to President Trump, and the racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry he and the extreme political right in this country, which is increasingly (and disturbingly) representative of the nativist and know-nothing base of the Republican Party, pulled from the gutter of the 20th century.
After a period of devastating defeats, there are signs that the Democratic party is back on the upswing and poised to make an historic comeback in November. According to the generic congressional ballot — current polling that serves as a good predictor of performance in midterm races — Democrats are running 12 to 13 points ahead of Republicans, when voters are asked whether they would vote for an unnamed Democrat or Republican to represent them in Congress. Democrats also got a lift last November, when Democratic candidates crushed their gubernatorial rivals in New Jersey and Virginia and almost won control of one chamber of the Virginia legislature. And who could forget the stunning upset this past December in Alabama, where a broad coalition of progressives, suburbanites and black voters came together to reject the hateful rhetoric of Republican Roy Moore and elect Democrat Doug Jones to the US Senate.
Amid all this good news, though, it still can be difficult to focus on the ultimate political objective of 2018, as the president offers constant distractions and often creates genuine threats to the well-being of Americans and the stature and vital interests of the US abroad. Nonetheless, we must subordinate all other endeavors to the effort to re-take Congress for the Democrats in 2018, not for the sake of party, but because the vital interests of the country and the very survival of our community are at stake.
Not in recent memory has the country seen a comparable upsurge in anti-Semitic and racist hatred, no less one given, at least, implicit sanction by the White House. According to the Anti-Defamation League, bias incidents directed at Jews are up two-thirds in the past year, and our community centers, cemeteries, schools and homes have become prime targets of attacks and desecrations by the very white supremacist groups that Trump has refused to condemn, and with whom he is complicit.
The White House has also waged an unprecedented war on the institutions and ideals of liberal democracy, slamming the free press as “fake news;” maintaining outrageous, egregious financial conflicts of interests; refusing to adopt routine transparency procedures; banning immigrants and refugees based on religion and nationality; and fawning over foreign dictators and giving them a pass on human rights abuses.
Given these developments, there is no political alternative for American Jews other than the Democratic Party in 2018. Yet some in our community have shockingly continued to back this administration, citing the insincere and cynical support for Israel offered by the White House and former anti-Semites or fellow travelers like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka. But, as American Jews, we cannot let such moves fool us. This White House stands squarely against the commitments that we have upheld since landing on these shores as immigrants and refugees: openness, equal rights, tikkun olam and economic opportunity.
Republicans have failed to provide a meaningful check on Trump’s anti-democratic, unconstitutional abuses of power, and we have watched Republican politicians who previously denounced the president as dangerous and unfit for office pander to him in public events and over countless rounds of golf. A strong showing at the polls in November will allow Democrats to provide meaningful oversight to a presidency that has been off the rails from the very start. It will also discourage Republicans from emulating Trump, reminding them that duties to the country and the Constitution come before obligations to their party and president.
There’s a long road between here and November, between where we are now and capturing at least two Senate seats and the 24 US House seats needed for Democrats to seize both chambers. But the wind is at our back, and our country needs us.
Send a message.
Daniel Berger, a trial lawyer and philanthropist in Philadelphia, is a board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.