By Ron Klein and Daniel Berger
More than 400,000 Americans were killed during World War II, the majority fighting the war in Europe against Nazi Germany. During the Holocaust, the Nazis murdered more than 6 million Jews and millions of others. The Nazi movement was based on a toxic combination of morally repugnant beliefs concerning racial supremacy and ultra-nationalism — so-called “blood and soil.” These obscene ideas were later discredited in Europe by the catastrophe of war but, unfortunately, the flames of racially charged hatred were never fully extinguished and provided the foundation for the white supremacist movement in the United States.
Also — unfortunately and dangerously — they now appear to have entered the mainstream of American politics in the age of Trump, specifically in today’s Republican Party. Amazingly, today in 2018, Nazis, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, white supremacists and those who align with them are running for Congress — all under the Republican banner.
Arthur Jones of Illinois is an actual Nazi. John Fitzgerald of California is a Holocaust denier. Corey Stewart of Virginia has taken pro-Confederate and alt-right stances. Bill Fawell of Illinois thinks Israel was one of the “masterminds” of 9/11. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) all but admitted the truth of allegations that he addressed a white supremacist rally. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) held a fundraiser in July with Holocaust denier Charles Johnson after both had previously been criticized for associating with Johnson.
And those are just some of the Republicans running for Congress. The GOP is also plagued with candidates at the state level like Steve West, who promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on his radio show and said “Hitler was right.” On Aug. 7, he won a contested Republican Missouri House of Representatives primary with more than 49 percent of the vote.
The leader of the Republican Party, President Donald Trump, equated innocent victims of violence with neo-Nazis protesting in Charlottesville in 2017. Trump’s refusal to unequivocally condemn the hatred in his own party and among his own supporters is an unacceptable abdication of moral leadership. Trump’s refusal to condemn those who espouse hatred and march under the Republican banner is itself encouragement and abetting of such behavior.
Sadly, Trump’s followers in the Republican Party are not doing much better. Some Republicans have condemned the Nazis, neo-Nazis and white supremacists representing their party in the November elections, but that is not nearly enough. At some point, we must all put country above party. We can argue about exactly where the line should be drawn, but is there any doubt that wherever the line is drawn, racists and anti-Semites are on the wrong side of that line?
We don’t expect leaders of either party to endorse candidates of the other party simply because of policy disagreements, no matter how strong, where reasonable minds can differ. That’s just not how our political system works. But when hatred and intolerance are at issue, when values that hundreds of thousands of Americans fought and died for are at stake, we can and must demand more.
The refusal of Republican members of the House and Senate to endorse the Democrats running against these problematic candidates — not because they agree with them on policy, but because they have found the courage and conviction to stand up for American values — is nothing less than moral bankruptcy.
The issue is not whether both parties have members and candidates at the fringes who do not come close to representing the mainstream on certain issues. They do. The issue is that only one party has Nazis, neo-Nazis and white supremacists running under its banner, and the leaders of that party, the Republican Party, refuse to endorse the only Americans who can defeat them.
The failure of House and Senate Republicans to support a Democrat even over a Nazi makes them complicit. Statements are not enough. Only one of two candidates will win these races in November. Who do Republicans want to win? Only they can tell us, and so far, their refusal to do so speaks more than any statement, no matter how strongly worded.
Republicans have truly become the party of Trump if they cannot stand up against hatred and division. The American public — and particularly the Jewish community — will not forget the silence of Republicans in the face of rising racism and anti-Semitism, and will judge them harshly at the polls in November.
Ron Klein is a former member of Congress from Florida and chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Dan Berger is a board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America from Philadelphia.