This Campaign Season Could be the Nastiest Ever
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The American Jewish community needs to increase its vigilance as the country enters what will undoubtedly will be one of if not the ugliest campaign seasons in America history. The signs suggest that there is a growing emergence of bigotry, prejudice, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust abuse. This comes at a time when Israel bashing is also far more acceptable.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress opens up his seat in the House. The race to succeed him in the 1st District in Wisconsin already had been considered to be increasingly competitive even while Ryan was expected to win re-election. Democrat Randy Bryce, a liberal, veteran and ironworker had already raised over $2.5 million by the end of 2017 expecting to run against Ryan. Now the Republican field is wide open. One conservative candidate who already had declared his intention to run against Ryan, Paul Nehlen, is a white nationalist, anti-Semite who had raised $166,000 by the end of 2017. While the Republican Party has disassociated itself from Nehlen, he remains a candidate to succeed Ryan.
In the Republican primary election for Illinois’ 3rd District, Arthur Jones won the contest unopposed and received over 20,000 votes. Jones is a racist, an anti-Semite, and a Holocaust denier. In this heavily Democratic district, the GOP did not even seek to put up a sacrificial lamb to at least deny Jones the party’s nomination.
In Kansas’ 2nd District, Steve Fitzgerald is seeking the Republican nomination for Congress. The Leavenworth, Kansas, State Senator has been requested by the Rabbinical Association of Kansas City to cease stating that abortions are comparable to the Holocaust. The rabbis’ letter demanded that “…[Fitzgerald] cease immediately making offensive and divisive comparisons to the Holocaust for political purposes, and to find different language to discuss abortion, out of respect for the millions of victims of the Nazi Holocaust.” The letter continued, “…your words abuse the memory of the murdered victims of the Nazi regime by using their deaths as a political weapon in our national debate.” In his response Fitzgerald noted he would take their comments “…into consideration and under advisement.”
The problem with Fitzgerald’s approach is this is not the first time he had abused the actions of the Nazis. He previously had compared Planned Parenthood to a Nazi concentration camp. Only recently during a debate on the floor of the State Senate on the use of aborted fetal tissue, Fitzgerald made reference to the activities of Josef Mengele, the notorious doctor of Auschwitz.
The Holocaust has become a word that today is mis-used and abused by public figures and political leaders in numerous settings to refer to mass murders or similar horrible events. The problem with this trend is that it has clearly begun to detract from the uniqueness of Germany’s extermination of 6 million Jews during the Nazi period from 1933-1945. If this trend continues the data which the recent Pew study demonstrated the decline among younger Americans concerning the Holocaust will surely continue. It is for that reason that comparing abortions to the Holocaust is so demeaning and abhorrent.
Every election cycle features marginal figures who somehow gain an element of respectability and receive nominations. This year in a climate of excessive polarization, racism, sexism, and heightened global anti-Semitism it appears that bigotry and prejudice of all sorts have become acceptable. With no moral leadership from the White House, the fact that trivialization of the Holocaust is also acceptable should not be surprising. The fact that there are no protests ought to be exceedingly troubling.