Principled conservatives have encouraged voters to support Democrats up and down the ballot in the upcoming midterms. They argue that the Republican Party, under Donald Trump’s corrupting influence, fundamentally has become an anti-democratic institution that poses a clear and present danger to our nation. I share this assessment. But it’s not the only reason to vote straight Democratic.
I didn’t live during the period of the Holocaust, the mass murder of six million European Jews, including one million and a half babies and children, at the hands of the Nazis. But it was always chilling to realize that I was born just four years after Jews were gassed and burned in ovens simply because they were Jewish. This thought kept going through my mind as I recently watched the powerful PBS series on the U.S. and the Holocaust, the latest Ken Burns masterpiece. The biggest takeaway from the program is that the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration did way too little and too late to rescue European Jewry, in part due to entrenched antisemitism in his State Department and in a significant segment of the American public.
I also reflected on the fact, thoroughly documented by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other monitoring groups, that antisemitic acts have proliferated since Donald Trump’s election in 2016. I do not know whether Trump, himself, harbors antisemitic attitudes. I am convinced, however, that he is an enabler of extremism and antisemitism by tacitly signaling his approval of white Christian nationalist and conspiracy groups such as QAnon, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers. Trump seems to believe that stirring up his loyal base will provide the necessary impetus for a presidential run in 2024.
Sadly, we in Pennsylvania know all too well the consequences of antisemitism, as well as how it intersects with politics. The 2018 massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation was the worst attack on Jews in this country’s history. It was carried out by a far-right wing gunman who posted his attack on the social media platform Gab, which ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt described as “a cesspool of antisemitism and racism.” By now, it is well known that last April Republican candidate for Governor, Doug Mastriano — a staunch 2020 election denier who was at the insurrection on January 6 — paid Gab $5,000 for consulting services, primarily to gain access to thousands of its followers. When this was revealed, causing a media firestorm, he finally dropped his relationship with Gab. Yet, to this day, he has not explicitly repudiated Gab or its founder Andrew Torba.
Dr. Oz is merely an opportunist from New Jersey who managed to win his primary on the back of Trump’s endorsement. Tied closely to our former president, it’s clear that he won’t fight for free and fair elections. Nor has he shown any inclination to speak out against right-wing extremism.
Our Congressman, Brian Fitzpatrick, declared Trump responsible for an “attempted coup” on January 6 when Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy also blasted Trump. But he always plays it safe, not wanting to alienate the Republican base. So, when McCarthy subsequently cozied up to Trump at Mar-A-Lago, he voted with the Republican herd against impeachment and later against establishment of the January 6 committee. I guess he’s not particularly interested in a congressional effort to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the “attempted coup.” In recent days, nine Republican House members joined Democrats in voting for the Electoral Count Act, which is designed to prevent future attempts to undermine election integrity. Fitzpatrick is not on that list. Clearly, we can’t count on him to protect our democracy and to vigorously push back against Trump and Mastriano-generated bigotry.
My wife and I were blessed with our first grandchild last May, a granddaughter. It terrifies me to think she could grow up in a country with a democracy at risk and growing anti-Jewish bigotry. We need courageous leaders now more than ever. Vote for Democrats across the board — Josh Shapiro for Governor, John Fetterman for U.S. Senate, Ashley Ehasz for U.S. House and all the candidates for the PA state legislature.
Martin J. Raffel is a resident of Langhorne and member of the Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania (DJOP) board.
This article originally appeared on The Intelligencer: Guest Opinion: Reasons to vote straight Democratic this November