Petty politicians today increasingly rely on Holocaust imagery to denigrate their opponents. It is more than a sign of limited intelligence and sloppy thinking; it demeans the slaughter of six million Jews and is especially egregious if you are the candidate and are the Jewish grandson of Holocaust survivors.
Worse still is if your grandparents came to America as refugees, but you want to close the country’s doors to other refugees, especially if they are Muslims and from Afghanistan. You ignorantly accuse them of wanting to “bring child brides and Sharia Law to your neighborhood.”
Welcome to the bitter, hate-filled world of Josh Mandel, the 44-year-old former state treasurer and state representative who thinks the surest way to become Ohio’s next senator is to echo the calculated extremism of a former president who sees “very fine people” among the nation’s excreta of racists, antisemites and xenophobes.
In Mandel’s world, a Soviet Jewish refugee and retired Army officer and decorated war veteran like Alexander Vindman is a “commie” and a “liar and a traitor” because he told the truth about your disgraced idol, Donald Trump.
You can be an equal opportunity bigot, attacking prominent Catholics. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi met the pontiff in Rome, you said, “There’s nothing beautiful about a politician who kills babies or a pope who empowers her.”
You accuse the president of the United States of “Gestapo” tactics because he wants all Americans immunized against the coronavirus and urge “my fellow Americans: do not comply.” Was George Washington also guilty of such “tyranny” when he ordered all of his troops vaccinated against another pandemic?
When the American Jewish Committee said your “disgraceful” blather is “deeply offensive and trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust,” and the ADL criticized your white supremacist views, you responded by accusing them of “a partisan witch hunt.”
You have declared your determination to “protect Judeo-Christian values” and called yourself “Pro-God, Pro-Guns and Pro-Trump.” Is that how you define your values?
I know you claim to be a lawyer, but Case Western Reserve law school should revoke the diploma of anyone who says, “The Bible and the Constitution are not supposed to be separate.”
Like you, I’m a Cleveland native who got a BA at Ohio State University. The first thing we were taught in journalism school was the First Amendment to the Constitution protects free speech and establishes a wall between church and state. It has been vital to the survival, success and safety of Jews and all other minorities in America, including those Muslims you want kept out. I cannot believe they left that out at Case. Did you skip class that day, or are you just blinded by your bigotry and ambition?
You probably cut history class, too. You went this week to your state capital, the largest city in the country named Columbus, to praise the Spanish-financed Italian explorer as a “Great American,” and to call changing his holiday to Indigenous People’s Day an “insult [to] every Italian-American.”
Brent Larkin, former Plain Dealer political writer, has called you a “bottom feeder” of “unsurpassed intellectual dishonesty,” for whom “no gutter is too deep, no shot too cheap.” The editor of the Plain Dealer has written that you have “a history of not telling the truth when he campaigns.” And in a “desperate” bid for attention, you are “given to irresponsible and potentially dangerous statements on social media.”
Doesn’t look like you’ll be getting your hometown newspaper’s endorsement in your bid to succeed retiring two-term Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
And you’ll have trouble getting a lot of votes from your family. Eight cousins – on your ex-wife’s side, a prominent Cleveland Jewish family – sent an open letter to the Cleveland Jewish News saying your “discriminatory stance” against same-sex marriage “violates the core values of our family.”
That goes along with your hostility toward gays in the military, your history of opposing LGBTQ rights, and your support for a law making it legal to fire someone just for being gay. That’s not surprising in light of your fealty to Trump. Your campaign website is silent on those issues, but trumpets your opposition to abortion.
Some polls show you are leading the half-dozen seekers of the nomination despite internal problems in your campaign. The Columbus Dispatch reported three of your fundraisers quit because of “a toxic work environment created” by your finance director, who also apparently happens to be your girlfriend.
In an interview with Jewish Insider, you said you are raising your three children to be “proud Americans, proud Jews and proud Zionists.” You also expressed your support for Israel, and that you have cousins “throughout Judea and Samaria.” You don’t seem to have much regard for the Palestinians who also live there, however, calling them “a people from a fictional land who hate everything we stand for as Christians, Jews, and Americans.”
You are an unabashed Trump wannabe with a patina of Ted Cruz. Taking a page from their playbooks, you’ve declared, “Now is not the time for bipartisanship. Now is not the time for civility.” That’s one promise I’m sure you’ll keep.
You call yourself a champion of “America First,” the xenophobic Trump theme of the Nazi sympathizers in the 1930s. You see the disgraced former president as your role model and crave his endorsement. Like Trump, you are more clearly defined by who you hate than what you believe. I don’t know if you believe anything you say, or, like your role model, believe only in yourself and whatever you feel like saying at any given moment.
Max Littman, writing in The Forward, described you as “an awful amalgam of Trumpism, neo-fascism and faux-nationalism all wrapped in one spiteful 5-foot-8-inch bundle. His own family can’t stand him.”
You say you’re “fighting to protect the Judeo-Christian bedrock of America,” but can’t resist divisive hate speech, particularly the kind of antisemitic tropes and Holocaust imagery spewed by Trump and particularly popular – but not exclusively – on the alt-right.
The dybbuk in your vision is George Soros, the Hungarian-born American philanthropist, Holocaust survivor and major Democratic contributor. He is also is the favorite Jewish scapegoat of Trump, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Marjory Taylor Greene (Jewish space lasers), Rudy Giuliani (called him the Antichrist), conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, Reps. Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn and Paul Gosar. Coincidence?
You’ve said the Jewish financier, working with the “deep state” and “moneyed liberal forces,” “organized” and “funded” the COVID pandemic as well as “the entire BLM, Antifa riots and looting.” Really? You actually believe that?
Can Jews be antisemites? I’m not talking about Nazi collaborators or secret KKK members, but politicians who worship antisemites, espouse antisemitic tropes, and use Holocaust imagery to denigrate their opponents and reinforce the bigotry of other antisemites.
In today’s raging political climate, with open racism, xenophobia and anti-democracy extremism out in the open in the Republican Party, predicting elections is a risky business. But I’m pretty sure it’s a safe bet that Mandel, who is Jewish, will do no better among Ohio’s educated, intelligent Jewish voters than his political hero, now in bitter exile in Florida.