The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party Turns to the Dark Side

Over the last several months the Markey campaign, mirroring the deterioration and polarization of American politics on the left and the right, has seen an explosion of online hate inspired by young extreme left supporters of Senator Markey through social media networks. Anonymous and cowardly, these attacks have targeted Joe Kennedy and his family, included death threats, referenced the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and have necessitated police protection for the Kennedy family. The Markey campaign has responded to these threats with ridicule, accusing the Kennedy campaign of crying “crocodile tears.” 

For me the most vicious of these attacks bring back nightmares and horrible  memories of November 22, 1963, June 6, 1968 and November 4,1995…the assassinations of JFK, RFK and Yitzhak Rabin.  We have learned to our horror from events in the US and in Israel that violent and extreme rhetoric can have murderous and horrifying results.   The political rhetoric that led to those murders was deployed by extremists in the most vicious kind of political dispute…and it led to murder.  Its use in a normal American political contest reveals exactly how far the extreme left is willing to go to achieve its goals and to control the future of the  Democratic Party and our nation.

Those of us who have watched speakers of many persuasions and particularly those speaking on behalf of Israel, no matter how nuanced, denied the right to speak and driven from campus will find these tactics familiar though no less despicable.   The ugliness of “cancel culture” and bullying that the extreme left  uses to intimidate and stifle debate on campus is now being imported into Democratic politics and “field tested” in the Markey campaign against  Joe Kennedy.  Like all extremists of the left and the right the people orchestrating these vicious attacks are absolutely sure about the total righteousness of their cause, and for them the ends justify the means.

If successful, these tactics will become standard operating procedure in the battle to define the future of the Democratic Party.  The Markey campaign’s dismissive response is even more disturbing, enabling and encouraging the worst and most divisive impulses in our already polarized political culture.

Over the last several months the Markey campaign, mirroring the deterioration and polarization of American politics on the left and the right has seen an explosion of online hate inspired by young extreme left supporters of Senator Markey through social media networks.   Anonymous and cowardly these  attacks have targeted Joe Kennedy and his family, included death threats, referenced the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and have necessitated police protection for the Kennedy family.   The Markey campaign has responded to these threats with ridicule, accusing the Kennedy campaign of crying “crocodile tears.”  Examples of some of the social media posts, horrifying and ugly are included below.

For me the most vicious of these attacks bring back nightmares and horrible  memories of November 22, 1963, June 6, 1968 and November 4,1995…the assassinations of JFK, RFK and Yitzhak Rabin.  We have learned to our horror from events in the US and in Israel that violent and extreme rhetoric can have murderous and horrifying results.   The political rhetoric that led to those murders was deployed by extremists in the most vicious kind of political dispute…and it led to murder.  Its use in a normal American political contest reveals exactly how far the extreme left is willing to go to achieve its goals and to control the future of the  Democratic Party and our nation.

Those of us who have watched speakers of many persuasions and particularly those speaking on behalf of Israel, no matter how nuanced, denied the right to speak and driven from campus will find these tactics familiar though no less despicable.   The ugliness of “cancel culture” and bullying that the extreme left  uses to intimidate and stifle debate on campus is now being imported into Democratic politics and “field tested” in the Markey campaign against  Joe Kennedy.  Like all extremists of the left and the right the people orchestrating these vicious attacks are absolutely sure about the total righteousness of their cause, and for them the ends justify the means.

If successful, these tactics will become standard operating procedure in the battle to define the future of the Democratic Party.  The Markey campaign’s dismissive response is even more disturbing, enabling and encouraging the worst and most divisive impulses in our already polarized political culture.

We need to stand up as progressives and remind those who would divide us that we are engaged in a sacred fight for the soul of the Democratic Party and our nation.

We ask Mr Markey to stand up against cancel culture and bullying….tell the young people supporting you that there are limits and that the fight for the future of America is also a fight for civility in our political culture.  

Mr Markey, you are a good man and you can help restore civility to the Democratic Party and our nation by rejecting those supporting you who would further polarize our political culture. Tell your supporters that we need to unify the country and end polarization whoever wins the primary.  Tell them that there is nothing progressive about cancel culture, bullying and hate speech.

The time is now.

About the Author
Barry Shrage served as President of CJP- Greater Boston’s Jewish Federation from 1987 to 2017. He is now Professor of the Practice in the Hornstein Program and the Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. Throughout his 50 year career Barry focused on strengthening Jewish identity and engaging future generations through Jewish education, deepening connections between American Jews and Israel and her people and developing strong communities that care for the most vulnerable in society. All views expressed are Barry’s own and not necessarily those of Brandeis University or CJP
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